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Eisenstein:the Sound Years

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Nikolay Cherkasov, Nikolai Okhlopkov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, Serafima Birman, Andrei Abrikosov
  • Directors: Dmitriy Vasilev, Sergei M. Eisenstein
  • Writers: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Pyotr Pavlenko
  • Producers: Sergei M. Eisenstein, A. Eidus, I. Bakar, I. Soluyanov
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Oct. 1 2002
  • Run Time: 292 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00004XQN5
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #37,364 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Product Description

Sergei Eisenstein, long regarded as a pioneer of film art, changed cinematic strategies halfway through his career. Upon returning from Hollywood and Mexico in the late 1930s, he left behind the densely edited style of celebrated silents like Battleship Potemkin and October, turning instead to historical sources, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for his grandiose yet subversive sound-era work. This trio of rousing action epics reveals a deeply unsettling portrait of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and provided battle-scene blueprints for filmmaking giants from Laurence Olivier in Henry V to Akira Kurosawa in Seven Samurai.


A biography of the first czar of Russia was the final movie project of the great Sergei Eisenstein's life. It would be his undoing, as Stalin was not pleased with part II of this epic. But Ivan the Terrible, Part I still stands as a magnificent, rich, and strange achievement. This is a "composed" film to make Hitchcock look slapdash; every frame is arranged with the eye of a painter or choreographer, the mise-en-scène so deliberately artificial that even the actors' bodies become elements of style. (They complained about contorting themselves to fit Eisenstein's designs.) If you don't believe movies can be art, this could be (and has been) dismissed as ludicrous. But Eisenstein's command of light and shadow becomes its own justification, as the fascinating court intrigue plays out in a series of dynamic, eye-filling scenes. This is not a political theorist, but a director drunk on pure cinema.

Part II continues with the struggle for power and the use of secret police, a controversial segment that caused the film to be banned by Stalin in 1946 (the film was not released until 1958). The predominantly black-and-white film features a banquet dance sequence in color. Obviously the two parts must be viewed as a whole to be fully appreciated. Many film historians consider this period in Eisenstein's career less interesting than his silent period because of a sentimental return to archaic forms (characteristic of Soviet society in the '30s and '40s). Perhaps it was just part of his maturity.

Alexander Nevsky (1939), Eisenstein's landmark tale of Russia thwarting the German invasion of the 13th century, was wildly popular and quite intentional, given the prevailing Nazi geopolitical advancement and destruction at the time. It can still be viewed as a masterful use of imagery and music, with the Battle on the Ice sequence as the obvious highlight. Unfortunately, the rest of the film pales in comparison. A great score by Prokofiev was effectively integrated by the Russian filmmaker, but stands on its own merit as well.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This box set is one of the Criterion Collection's best releases yet. In this set are 3 films.
Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible (Ivan Grozny) parts 1 and 2.
Alexander Nevsky is based on the true story of 13th century Prince Alexander Nevsky who helped fend off Teutonic (German) soldiers out of what is now Russia.
The film has an excellent score composed for the film by Sergei Prokofiev. The acting in the film is also very good also. The film was very popular and was temporarily banned by Stalin after Germany signed a nonagression pact with the Soviet Union.
The film is on disc 1 and has the following special features.
Restoration demonstration, Production stills and storyboard drawings, a multimedia essay by Russel Merrit on Sergei Eisenstein's work with Sergei Prokofiev on the film's score, an feature length essay on the film by David Bordwell, who wrote a book on Eisenstein's films, and there is also stills and dialog from Eisentein's unfinished film, Bezhin Meadow with photos of the film's set.
Ivan the Terrible parts 1 and 2 are the first two parts of an unfinished trilogy. Several scenes of part 3 were filmed but only one scene is known to survive today.
The film follows the life of Tsar Ivan Vassilivich also known as Ivan the Terrible (Ivan Groznyy). He is credited with uniting the people of Russia into a single nation. The first film covers his coronation and a battle that was fought to reclaim lost territory. The film is also very famous and has music by Prokofiev.
The first part on disc 2 has the folloving special features:
The deleted prologue sequence covering part of Ivan's childhood where he witnesses the poisoning murder of his mother and also contains another deleted scene.
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Format: DVD
I'm only telling you about the Nevsky DVD here - my local library has a copy of it, and that was all i got to see.
Terrific transfer - firstly. The film's look, like with Ivan, is its greatest attribute - and here it looks incredible. The images are just so clear, i couldn't believe it. You can fully appreciate the brilliance and purity of Eistenstein's cinema.
Sound quality was good.
Special features were particularly good (as usual). Audio commentary and tidbits from film historians and critics. Most interesting was a reconstruction from stills and titlecards of Eistenstein's unfinished/lost pastoral film Bezhin Meadows. This is the only place you'll get to see this. And i was quite impressed by it. There are some striking images in there, similar to some compositions from Nevsky.
Unlike Ivan (which i have seen Part I of, but not on this DVD) in my opinion, Nevsky does not suffer from a creaky plot, but has good unity and good progression to the climax of the battle of the ice. Part love triangle, part battle epic, Nevsky feels wearisome in places for how very much it is soviet propaganda. In both films, the performances are unusual, because they are more like silent performances, which would have been poetic in a silent, but definitely look quirky in a sound movie.
If i had any complaints it would be these:
one for Eisenstein, for his sound engineer, for the terrible job he did of constructing the sound for the battle on the ice. I could hear the foley artist literally clanking a whole lot of swords together rhythmically. Very distracting indeed.
one for Criterion: i would not have subtitled every line of the singing. Nevsky and Ivan are both part Eisenstein movie, part Prokofiev opera.
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Format: DVD
Alexander Nevsky:
For those familiar with this classic of the Russian cinema, little need be said. For others, here are the high points: the story is set in medieval Russia and it essentially is about a great warrior who is drawn out of seclusion to lead the fight to defend the homeland against invading barbarians, who are German; there is much bravura acting from the loyal patriots, who deal not only with a vicious enemy from without but also with insidious traitors from within; the hero-warrior who leads them is suitably understated and dignified, striking a memorable portrait of nobility and grandeur. All this is dramatically heightened by some of the best cinematography ever, climaxing in a final battle over the ice which is done entirely with striking visuals and music-only sound. The result is one that rises far beyond the level of a mere costume picture or any cartoon story of battling types. This is a rich treasure from cinematic history, with all talents (including Sergei Eisenstein, one of the greatest directors ever, seen at his best) in brilliant form. Don't miss it.
Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II:
During World War II, with Russia in the grip of Stalin and with Hitler at its door, the greatest Russian director of his day, and perhaps ever, joined the greatest Russian actor of his day, to depict the dark and brooding story of the rise and fall of a ruthless Russian Tsar who tyrannized Russia during the 1500s. While the story hardly amounts to movie uplift, the joy and fascination here lies in the details. Straightaway, in episode one, there is perhaps the most amazing movie opening ever filmed, in the coronation of Ivan the Terrible.
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