For Reel

Alexander Nevsky (1938)
January 16, 2012, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Sergei Eisenstein & Dmitri Vasilyev

Having been unable to complete both Que Viva Mexico! and Bezhin Meadow, Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eistenstein hadn’t finished a feature for nearly ten years prior to the release of his first sound film, Alexander Nevsky. In addition to being his first foray into sound, it may also be considered his least experimental and most accessible work. Even with the expected xenophobic, heavily-propagandistic subtext, it remains a crowd pleaser, with the thirty-minute Battle of the Ice serving as a grand spectacle that clearly has influenced the structuring of medieval warfare scenes in films such as Seven Samurai and The Lord of the Rings pictures. Despite the formal achievements in editing, however, the sequence is deadening and redundant. Assessing the film’s success as to whether or not it achieves the intended nationalistic effect, it pales in comparison to Battleship Potemkin, which had more story and, in the funeral sequence, a more effective sense of what exactly is at stake. The never-ending flurries of swordplay are emotionally distancing, and when the film does attempt to rally the audience with pageantry and moralizing in its third act, the manipulation is so transparent that it makes Strike look subtle by comparison. As gorgeous as the battle sequence is, the picture is that and nothing more, a thoroughly hollow exercise with tremendous technical merits but little else.

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