Alexander Nevsky (1938) – Sergei M. Eisenstein and Dmitriy Vasilev

DK Book’s The Movie Book suggested one more Key Film for Sergei Eisenstein following my screening of Battleship Potemkin; the classic Russian film Alexander Nevsky.

Starring Nikolay Cherkasov in the titular role, the film is incredibly engaging, and well-produced, and if nothing else you can tell that the composer Sergei Prokofiev’s score influenced such composers as Basil Poledouris and James Horner. I recognised familiar motifs and arrangements that both composers would pay homage to throughout their careers.

Russia is caught between the hammer and the anvil invading from the east, the Mongols; attacking from the west, the Germans, with the Holy Roman Church as an ally. Nevsky, a prince ruling over his people, prepares for war, and when he is summoned by a neighbouring town, he amasses his army, and the peasants of the country. They are ready to meet the Germans and fight for their land, before turning the battle to the Mongols – a fight that is not seen in this film.

Providing a bit of a lighter tale interweaving with the drama is the pursuit of a woman, Olga (Valentina Ivashova) by two village men, Vasili (Nikolai Okhlopkov) and Gavrilo (Andrei Abrikosov). She agrees to marry the bravest of the two surviving the battle.

The centre piece of the entire tale is the Battle on the Ice. Refusing to let the German forces step on their Homeland they meet them on a frozen lake, and the battle lasts for almost the entire second half of the film, culminating in the ice shattering and claiming men on both sides.

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Eisenstein crafted a beautiful film. Sure, it looks a little clean, and nowhere near as dark as it could be, but the film remains incredibly entertaining.

As mentioned, the battles are a little clean, and look like a lot of people just hitting each other and pushing and punching one another. For all that violence, there isn’t a lot (read as any) blood. Yes, I understand it was a different time in terms of film-making, and what you could show on screen, but it’s hard to believe that someone has been slain by a sword when even the blade isn’t dirty.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s just a minor complaint. In every other regard the film is solidly crafted, incredibly entertaining, and once again, gives me a glimpse of film-making not only from another country, but another time period.

This is yet another film that should find its way onto the list of any film buff. It’s a bit of a must-see, and the Battle on the Ice is excellent, and, as mentioned, so is the score.

The Movie Book, from DK Books has yet to disappoint. Take a look at it today, and find something amazing to watch!

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