Alexander Nevsky

Sergei Eisenstein's first completed sound film, Alexander Nevsky features not just a score by Prokofiev, but a brilliant formal collaboration, a form of cinematic opera based on Eisenstein's theories of contrapuntal dynamics. Filmed on the eve of World War II, this highly stylized film, though set in 1241, had the authority of a contemporary documentary: its forceful portrayal of a nationalist hero who lives among the fishermen of a peaceful village courageously confronting machinelike and heavily armored foreign invaders points to the imminent danger of an invasion of Russia by Fascist Germany. (The Hitler-Stalin pact resulted in the temporary shelving of the film, but its previous release had already helped unify popular resistance.) The famed Battle on the Ice is memorable indeed, but the film's calmer, lyrical moments emphasize how life is interrupted by violence, however patriotic the call.

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