Still unsurpassed in many respects heroic pageant coupled to propagandist load. Yet, to reduce this visual feast to propaganda is to miss the point, which lies not only in the ultimate and unavoidable truth of patriotic struggle against invasion but in the uncanny extreme close-ups of the Teutonic knights, their crimes, the operatic rhythm, the extended battle and the archetypal heroes, traitors and vanquished. Epic!
It is in the dimension of the conflict of invasion that the film rises to greatness. Eisenstein predicting the Nazi atrocities in the war to come embodies them in the Crusaders. The crusaders dressed in white and on white horses are framed straight from Birth of a Nation. Unlike that work of evil, Eisenstein embodies them as faceless crab monsters. Lucas and Peter Jackson would latter reverse Eisenstein's reversal...
Excellent cinematography, arguably the single feature that elevates this film. The battle scene is superb given the limitations of the time. The myriad of peasants and knights are delicately characterised and choreographed to give a very realistic feeling to the story. The film also strikes a cord for its accute insight into a perilous era, prelude of one of saddest episodes in XX century Russian history.
I didn't like this one as much as the Ivan the Terrible movies and of course Eisenstein's better known works. It is a little monotone. Things to pay attention too are the meticulous detail that has gone into the Teutonic faction. Their look and how they're set up on the set are both very well done.
This film should first be evaluated for its cinematography. Its clear that patriotic and communist values dominate the screenplay, but I think that neither that nor the politic analogy to the relation between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union undermines the greatness of this production. Besides, Prokofiev amazing soundtrack and the richness of the wardrobe gives an iconic mark to this film.