Ivan The Terrible

24. IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART I (1944-USSR). Directed by SERGEI EISENSTEIN, music by PROÂKOFIEV. One of the landmarks of world cinemaÑan epic biography of Czar Ivan IV, whom Eisenstein called “fearful and wonderful, attracting and repelling.” It is the most grandiose and ambitious work of the Soviet Union’s most gifted director, displaying his talent for organizing beautiful compositions, dynamic editing, and massive action. Set in the 16th century, the film opens with Ivan’s coronation; marking the first time a Grand Duke of Moscow has become absolute ruler of all Russia. When the Archbishop proclaims Ivan the Czar by divine right, indignation is aroused among the foreign envoys and the boyars (governors of the feudal domains now controlled by the central state). After a successful military campaign to unify all Russian lands seized by foreign powers, Ivan becomes ill. His malicious aunt, leader of the boyars, has Ivan’s beloved wife Anastasia poisoned, hoping her own son will become Czar in the event of Ivan’s death. But Ivan recovers, and vows to destroy all of his enemies. He exiles himself from Moscow, and rallies massive support against the boyars. Some have labeled the film “operatic,” “overblown,” even “grotesque.” Others have found it “brilliant,” “engrossing,” and “rich in historical detail.” The New York Times called it “one of the most imposing films ever made.” And Charles Chaplin said it was “the greatest historical film ever to have appeared on the screen. In construction, magnificence and beauty it surpasses everything we have hitherto seen in the cinema.” In Russian with English subtitles. 96 minutes. Eisenstein