Ivan The Terrible, Part I

  • 1945
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Historical

The last work of pioneering Soviet director Sergei Eisentstein, IVAN THE TERRIBLE is an ambitious, stylized, and ornate portrait of Russia's first czar. Released in two parts, it has been cited on many lists of the 10 best motion pictures of all time, as well as in a book called The FiftyWorst Films of All Time. At his coronation as czar, Ivan IV (Nikolai...read more

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The last work of pioneering Soviet director Sergei Eisentstein, IVAN THE TERRIBLE is an ambitious, stylized, and ornate portrait of Russia's first czar. Released in two parts, it has been cited on many lists of the 10 best motion pictures of all time, as well as in a book called The FiftyWorst Films of All Time.

At his coronation as czar, Ivan IV (Nikolai Cherkasov) pledges to unify Russia and reclaim outlying areas that have been lost to foreign powers. In bitter opposition to Ivan's ascendancy are the boyars, Russia's noble families. Three ambassadors from Kazan appear at the royal court to announce a

declaration of war on Moscow. Ivan leads his army to Kazan and vanquishes the foe. On his return to Moscow, he falls seriously ill. After receiving the last rites of the church, Ivan beseeches the boyars in court to affirm his infant son's right of succession to the throne. When all refuse but his

friend, Prince Andrew Kurbsky (Mikhail Nazvanov), who covets Anastasia, Ivan miraculously recovers and launches an attack on the western regions.

IVAN THE TERRIBLE is a rich and stately movie in which everything is ritualized. The camera rarely moves, and each frame is painstakingly composed. It is difficult to think of a film that would lose less if rendered in a book composed of the screenplay accompanied by a single frame from each shot;

the movie is, in a way, its own storyboard. Echoes of grand opera, Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, High-Church liturgy, Japanese drama, and the paintings of El Greco (the subject of an Eisenstein essay) can be discerned throughout IVAN THE TERRIBLE, and the mixture is compellingly baroque without ever

descending into the excesses of "camp."