Ivan the Terrible, Part I
Anne Nesbet is an associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures and film and media at UC Berkeley.
Nikolai Cherkasov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, Serafina Birman, Mikhail Nazvanov,
Ivan the Terrible, Part I also screens on February 11 (with Naum Kleiman and Peter Bagrov in conversation) as part of the series Sergei Eisenstein: Films That Shook the World.
Like Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible is a collaboration with “that magician Sergei Prokofiev,” as Eisenstein called him; it has a strange magic bordering on sorcery. Filmed under difficult wartime conditions, it is set in sixteenth-century Moscow, where the newly crowned Czar Ivan attempts to thwart both the boyars (the feudal nobility) and the hold of the church to create a unified Russia. Set mostly in cave-like cathedral interiors with frescoed walls, the film itself is like a fresco come to life in painterly long shots and tortured close-ups. Part I follows Ivan from his coronation to his voluntary exile to Alexandrov to await his people’s summons.