For Reel

Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1958)
February 1, 2012, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Sergei Eisenstein

Although Joseph Stalin greatly approved of the first part of Sergei Eisenstein’s planned Ivan the Terrible trilogy, the second part was not screened until 1958 due to the heavy criticism thrust upon it by authorities. Interestingly, while one might be inclined to attribute this to the fact that Ivan had become more unhinged in the second part, the picture’s most drastic difference from the first is in its use of childhood flashbacks. Eisenstein initially wanted these scenes to be a part of the first film, however he was forced to give them up and eventually had to fight for their positioning in the second. In suggesting Ivan’s early victimization and his feelings of reclusion and helplessness, he is given psychological complexities that were not alluded to in the previous film. Stalin argued that Eisenstein didn’t provide enough reason for Ivan’s cruelness, however that isn’t quite the case. Eisenstein interprets that Ivan’s ambition is fueled by his own lust for self-empowerment, which stems from his feelings of vulnerability as a child. The worry, then, is not that the picture doesn’t provide enough reason for Ivan’s inhuman behavior, but that the reason it provides so thoroughly humanizes Ivan that he no longer serves well as Russia’s proud, strong father. In addition to presenting a fuller portrait of Ivan, in Part II Eisenstein had the means to top the spectacle of Part I with a color banquet sequence, beautifully rendered with reds and golds in an almost implacable setting that could substitute for hell.