Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II

"Ivan the Terrible" was legendary Russian director's last great work, yet also the film that put an end to his unprecedented career. Originally slated as a three part project, Stalin sensed the political undertones in the second film from Eisenstein's depiction of the secret police, and had the film banned and the series cancelled (Part II was released in 1958). Parts I and II of Eisenstein's epic are highly stylized depictions of the brutal of the czar, with Ivan's war against the aristoratic Boyars, court intrigue, murder of Anastasia, and revenge against his betrayers drawn in long shadow and sharp artistic details (a color shift during a celebration in "II" is both jarring and exciting). The cast members are seen as caricatures and Nikolai Cheraksov's wide eyed lead performance is something to behold. Strangely for a historical epic, "Ivan the Terrible" is a triumph of style over substance and a worthy, if incomplete swan song for a great master.