Ivan the terrible sources of inspiration Analysis

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  • Sources of inspiration Analysis

Eisenstein and Socialist Realism

  • Patriotic theme of great leader: Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great... Sun image: “L’état c’est moi.” Socialist-realist leader, "positive hero" who unites Russia, crushes kramola (dissent).

  • Transparent references to contemporary issues in Russia:

  • repelling invaders (war with 3rd Reich);

  • Ivan's war with the boyars compares to Stalin's suppression of rivals (Trotsky and co.);

  • alliance with England - trading with Russia through the White Sea (convoys bringing war materiel to USSR).

Eisenstein’s drawing of Ivan (“Le Roi Soleil,” “Sun King”)

Eisenstein's new post 1935 style in Ivan I

  • Visually and thematically Eisenstein draws on traditions in Russian art and history:

  • literature;

  • opera;

  • music;

  • visual arts;

  • Orthodox religion.

Literature: Aleksandr Pushkin

  • Details borrowed from Pushkin’s historical play Boris Godunov (1825):

  • Holy Fool, Nikolka the Iron Cap;

  • satirical portraits of Poles and other foreigners.

  • Text mimicks old Russian speech, like Pushkin's.

Opera: Musorgsky

  • Modest Musorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov (1868-1873) inspired sets and costumes.

  • Musorgsky’s music paved the way for the Russian tradition in music.

  • Eisenstein produced Wagner’s Valkyrie at the Bolshoi (1940).

Visual presentation: influences

  • Russian icons (static, “frozen” images)

  • Russian nineteenth-century historical painters

Icon of Ivan the Terrible and drawing by Eisenstein

Vasily Surikov Morning of the Execution of the Streltsy

Ilya Repin Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan

Ilya Vasnetsov Berendei Palace

Commedia dell’arte

  • Influence of Meyerhold still apparent:

  • Circus and masks, grotesque;

  • typage of the people at court;

  • exaggerated acting, poses.

  • Question: is this just a silent film with musical accompaniment?

Typical visual effects

  • Dramatic lighting.

  • Unlike Alexander Nevsky with broad horizons, Ivan has dark tunnels of Kremlin intrigue.

  • Low ceilings, head often at bottom of screen.

  • Even battle of Kazan is won through digging tunnels.

German expressionism (shadows; suspense based on growing shadows; elongated, distorted figures) (Left Ivan, right, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu)

The eyes…

  • Expression of eyes - a throwback to Mozzhukhin’s remark on the importance of the eyes in acting.

  • Malyuta - the eyes of the tsar.

  • Huge icon of the searching eyes of conscience.


Some themes and patterns

Gender inversions: Staritskaia

…Fyodor Basmanov

Prince Kurbski, “the negative of Ivan”

Inversions: Ivan as tsar

Vladimir as “tsar”

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