Sunday, July 8, 2012

171. Ivan Groznyy

Ivan Groznyy
Ivan the Terrible Part I and II
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein

Don't worry, I will not make an obvious "this movie is terrible" joke. See?  I am growing.

This movie is available on YouTube without any subtitles.  I had recently read an article about how watching movies without subtitles enhances the experience, so I decided to go for it and watch it with my sister.  This actually worked out well for this movie since it is visually stunning more than anything.  Every once in awhile I would read out loud part of the synopsis from IMDb and then we would go on chattering away.  It was actually pretty fun except at the end when my sister clearly wanted me to leave so she could go to bed but I wouldn't budge until the movie was done.  I do it for you, readers.

This was certainly a blast from the past since we haven't seen Eisenstein since the days of old (aka silent movies).  I have to admit, it was sort of like walking into an ex: please go away; I have moved on!  No one can argue that this movie isn't striking visually but the acting is a bit overdone.  I am not really an expert on the plot (I was convinced it was a musical for a large portion of the film) but from what I gathered, it wasn't anything amazing.  Also, what was the deal with the random color scenes?  I felt like I was watching Phantom of the Opera again.  Eisenstein clearly is stuck in the silent age with Chaplin.

Roger Ebert wrote a great line about this movie: "liking it has become more of a duty than a pleasure."  Spot on, Rog.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

One of the films included in "50 Worst Films of All Time."

Took over three years to make.

Color scenes made with bi-color which is why it looked like shit.

Stalin withheld the second part because of its depiction of the madness of Ivan.  Released after Stalin's death.

Try your hand at Russian!  Fun for the whole family!


  1. I loved that Roger Ebert quote. I feel like that is true of a lot of classic films, especially those described as "visually stunning."

  2. As chance would have it, I'm part way through another Eisenstein.. from much later - early 30's.. A rather odd one 'Que Viva mexico'.. from when he went to the USA by invite to make a film, and ended up staying ages in mexico shooting miles and miles of 'stuff'.. supposedly to avoid going back to the Soviet Union.
    I'd rather watch this again.. at least this had some structure.. but I did get to see it with English Subtitles.
    Andrew loathed dragging through all these (seemingly) endless Soviet politicals from the 20's/30s.
    Me?, well.. I certainly see their vast importance.. and there are undoubtedly some FANTASTIC moments in them...'The battle on the ice', 'Odessa steps', 'Storming the winter palace' etc...
    You can here the 'but' coming though.
    BUT.. there seems to be just so many in the book.. and so much is very samey.. and those great moments are all in different films...
    Lately I've seen several other Soviet silents .. and there is a great deal of 'other' stuff out there that is very different to Eisenstein having brutal Cossacks hack little old ladies to bits.
    The fascinating 'Alita, Queen of Mars' .. a sort of Sci film in which the titular Queen has a device to view earth .. and gets the hots for young good looking hard working (and, yes, politically aware) hunk party member and factory worker... OK, sure, that ends with the workers of mars rising up to depose the tyrannical regime, but there is a lot more fun on the way than any glowering bearded Russian Monarch going mad.
    So I guess I agree with you including the Roger Ebert quote

    Thanks once more to Rachel in the archives.

    1. Alita, Queen of Mars sounds like such an interesting movie; I never thought I would voluntarily watch another Eisenstein film, but I might have to check that out.

  3. Slight error on my part .. it's Aelita, Queen of mars...and it's on Youtube at the moment.. but it is 2 hours long, so I hesitate to recommend.

  4. I like the idea of watching this without subtitles. The characters are involuntarily comical as it is. If you have no idea what they are actually saying it must be hilarious.

  5. True it would make it a lot less boring.

  6. I have a copy with subtitles if you want it? I can't see you taking me up on that offer, though. Three-and-a-quarter hours of your life rehashing the same again?

    When watching these films, particularly those that let my mind wander because they're not fully grabbing my attention, I start to compose some words to write here. But, basically, you've all beaten me to it with all the same points. Visually superb, especially with the use of light and shadows. But it's a mix of grand, traditional theatre and avant garde 1920s cinema. Not sure of its relevance to film making in 1944.

    Wikipedia says: "Almost all the film is in black and white, but at the very end of Part II, just for 10 minutes color film is used to emphasize the transition from good to bad as well as its general importance."
    So, not just because they had limited access to colour technology so decided to add it for a single scene jut because they could?

    1. Oh, it was so. I really hate when predominantly black and white movies have sporadic color scenes. It's just so cheesy. Exception of course for Wizard of Oz, where it made "sense" for the "plot." That was cheesy for other reasons.