Alexander Nevsky ★★★

Sergei Eisenstein was, primarily, a maker of Soviet propaganda, and that's especially important to bear in mind when watching his 1938 film Alexander Nevsky. The film tells of the 13th-century invasion of Kievan Rus' by the Teutonic Knights, and the Russians' defence of their homeland under Prince Alexander Nevsky, famous and revered for having won a victory against the Swedes some years prior. The metaphor is blatant, and as such the film serves as a parable - more than a parable, really - for the prospective invasion of Russia at the hands of Germany in the time that the film was made. I find it funny, however, that Stalin banned the film after signing the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact but had to undo this when Hitler violated it in 1941.

It goes without saying that the Russians are painted in the best and most Soviet light possible, variously shown empowering women to an anachronistic extent, attacking the Church, brutally punishing traitors and collaborators, and doubling armaments production. As such, the film is full of arch heroics and stilted performances. The production feels very amateur even for 1938, and the famous battle on the frozen Lake Chudskoye goes on too long. The best takeaways are Sergei Prokoviev's score and Eisenstein's reliably striking use of montage, and the film as a whole is best viewed in light of its historical context - how else to make allowances for its unceasing naïvety?

Albie liked these reviews