The year of 1565.Russia is ravaged by famine and war. Ivan Grosny, the first tsar of Russia, invites his childhood friend Abbot Philip to become a Mitropolitan of Russia.Inspite of their friendship the new Metropolitan rebels against the cruelty and tortures of the tsar’s policy.
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Ivan here resembles Ilya Repin's famous depiction of a wild-eyed lunatic more than anything else, making Eisenstein's -albeit aborted- version of the ruler look like a model of sanity by comparison. It is Pyotr Mamonov as Ivan and Tarkovsky regular Yankovsky as Philip that steal the show, but the film's achievement is to make the utter horror and craziness abide through all the characters.