XL Popcorn – Ivan the Terrible, Part I

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 724/1007Title: Ivan Groznyy (Ivan the Terrible, Part I)
Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Year: 1944
Country: Soviet Union

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, whilst this is meant to be a list of 1001 films to watch there are, in fact, 1007. This is because of things like Ivan The Terrible where the list includes an entry that covers multiple films. Once I’ve watched both Ivan The Terrible films, I’ll have covered all these ‘series’ and will be left with just the standalones. I guess that’s a bit of a cool milestone.

Ivan the Terrible, Part I is, as you’d expect, covers the early years of Ivan the Terrible’s reign as the tsar of Russia. We start at his lavish coronation and end after the death of his first wife and his defeat to the Poles and Livonians (now Latvia and Estonia). Whilst it would not be advisable to take all the events on board as definite history (as it was created to the standards of Stalin’s censorship), I feel like I have learnt so much about Russian history and I really am keen to learn more.

Thinking a bit on this having to meet censorship standards – it’s interesting that this is how Stalin was happy to have one of his heroes being represented on film. From his perspective he would have seen the strong ruler who conquered, united Russia and shook up the systems of the upper classes (all things he’ll have seen himself as). From a modern and non-Russian perspective, this character is already pretty despotic… and this film was meant to be him at his most level-headed – so I can only imagine what happens in the sequel.

The film itself is so well constructed from the intrigue and pacing of the story to the use of space in the interior and exterior shots. There also such a weird mixture of lavishness (e.g. the pouring over of coins in the coronation) and sternness (e.g. the captured Kazan prisoners being tied to the barricades in order to be shot by their own side) that works so well for the telling of this story. Then again, this is the same director who did Battleship Potemkin – so he knows how to do a great set piece.

I know that I usually try to put gaps in between films of the same director, but given that I really want to see the next part of this story about the life of Ivan the Terrible… I’m going to try and watch the second and final part when I next have the time. But first Dumbo. I’m loving this Disney challenge.

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