Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USSR, 1938. Mosfilm. Screenplay by Sergei M. Eisenstein, Pyotr Pavlenko. Cinematography by Eduard Tisse. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Production Design by Iosif Shpinel. Costume Design by Konstantin Eliseev. Film Editing by Sergei M. Eisenstein, Esfir Tobak.
You can hardly shake a stick at cinema since Alexander Nevsky and not find a film that is strongly influenced by it. The first sound film by Russian genius Sergei Eisenstein, it tells the heroic story of the titular thirteenth-century Prince (Nikolai Cherkasov) who saves his people from the onslaught of Germans threatening to take over their lands. The rich boyars of Russia want to allow the invaders in for their own purposes of filling their pockets, but Nevsky will hear none of it, and leads his people towards victory. The impeccable framing and gorgeous shots of empty, icy landscapes are unforgettable, plus it is highlighted by a rousing thirty-minute battle sequence at its climax that is skillfully edited without a single seam showing. Laurence Olivier was heavily influenced by the battle scenes when he filmed Henry V in 1945, as was Mel Gibson for his Oscar-winning Braveheart (though Mel’s was gorier; Eisenstein manages to make a rousingly violent film without ever showing a drop of blood).