Sergei Eisenstein's classic tale of 13th-century Russia is as magnificent today as it must have been in 1938. A formidable achievement of Soviet cinema, this epic concerns the trying period when Russia was invaded by Teutonic knights on one front and Tartars on the other. As a result, the
motherland is plundered, and the morale of the people crumbles. Finally, the moody, volatile Prince Nevsky (Nikolai Cherkassov) is summoned to lead his people in their struggle against the oppressors. A valiant and intelligent nobleman, Nevsky forms his army (an undertaking that consumes half the
film), then wins a decisive battle at frozen Lake Peipus in 1242.
Eisenstein had the Russian army at his disposal, and the battle scenes, populated with thousands of men, are overwhelming. Wearing terrifying helmets fashioned after gargoyles, ogres, and fierce animals, the Teutonic knights engage the Russian army of peasants and nobles, hacking with sword,
spear, and axe until the armor-burdened invaders fall victim to the lake's cracking ice. Eisenstein's attention to detail is meticulous down to the last horse blanket and homemade shoe, and the mounting of his monument to Russia's ancient hero is superb. His career on the verge of collapse,
Eisenstein was rewarded for his work (an undeniably propagandist piece with the heroic Nevsky as Stalin and the savage Teutons as the Nazis) by being named head of Mosfilm Studios. The film represents a stylistic departure for Eisenstein, whose was beginning to abandon dialectical montage (e.g.,
THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN) for more conventional narrative methods. Prokofiev's vigorous score has become a concert piece in its own right.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Sergei Eisenstein's classic tale of 13th-century Russia is as magnificent today as it must have been in 1938. A formidable achievement of Soviet cinema, this epic concerns the trying period when Russia was invaded by Teutonic knights on one front and Tarta… (more)