films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


October (Ten Days that Shook the World) poster

The fun thing about Eisenstein is that he made several films which you can appreciate in very different ways. There's a very political plot here, but I didn't care one single bit, instead I was more intrigued by Eisenstein's hyper editing and visual bravura, which made an otherwise pretty boring film very palatable.

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The film handles the October Revolution of 1917, Russia. An important historical event that details how the monarchy was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who went on strike. It's probably true that the visual style detracts from the actual content here, as I can't say I learned much or am able to recount many details, but that's hardly a negative.

There are other, more famous Eisenstein films, but I think his visual prowess was never more impressive than here. The edgy editing, the stark black and white contrasts and the love for more abstract imagery really define this film. The middle part felt a bit more toned down, but the first and final third are pretty damn great. One of the best silents I've seen.

Ivan the Terrible, Part II

Ivan Groznyy. Skaz Vtoroy: Boyarskiy Zagovor
1958 / 88m - Soviet Union
Ivan the Terrible, Part II poster

Almost a year after tackling the first film, I figured it was time to give the second one a chance. Didn't care much for Part I, which explains why it took me so long to get started on Part II. Luckily, it was a slight improvement over the first film, but not enough to make this a particularly pleasant watch.

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The plot continues where the first film left off, but leaves things hanging as a planned third part never materialized/survived (both due to Eisenstein dying and this part being banned for almost 12 years). Ivan wants to consolidate his power and establishes a personal army, but the Russian boyars want the Tsar gone and come up with a plan to assassinate Ivan. What follows is a strategic stand-off.

People with an interest in Ivan may find more to like here, the story itself couldn't really compel me. The cinematography at least is pretty decent, the scenes in color in particular stand out. The soundtrack is pretty dire though and the performances are extremely overstated. It's a good thing the film is relatively short, but that's hardly a saving grace.


1925 / 82m - Soviet Union
Strike poster

Early Eisenstein. The man is best known for The Battleship Potemkin, which he would later that same year, but Strike also turned a few heads. For me, it's very much a film in two parts. There's the cinematography and editing, which I appreciated quite a bit. Then there's the plot, which did absolutely nothing for me.

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The film focuses on a group of factory workers. They are mistreated by their bosses, but they finally decide to band together and stop work until their demands are met. Eisenstein follows them around as they try to outsmart their masters, which leads to a pretty violent and shocking finale.

The black and white cinematography is rich in contrast and the flashy editing adds a lot of flair to the film. The finale is pretty impressive too. But the revolt of workers against their bosses is rather basic and the runtime too long. Not a terrible film, but I'm a bit bummed Eisenstein went for a more narrative film, whereas his style has so much more potential.

Ivan the Terrible, Part I

Ivan Groznyy
1944 / 95m - Soviet Union
Ivan the Terrible, Part I poster

Eisenstein is best known for his early innovation, with a strong focus on the visual side of things. I had no idea what to expect from Ivan the Terrible, but I figured I would see back some of that experimentation here. Turns out this is a very classic, strict and unadventurous biography, a pretty big bummer.

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To be honest, I'm not particularly interested in Russian history, especially not when it is served as a pretty dry, political film that heavily relies on dialogue and comes with a hefty slice of propaganda. Even though it's relatively short, it dragged from the very start and never picked up steam.

Performances are poor, though that could've also been due to the second-rate costumes. The sets at least are pretty nice, but the rigid camera work and basic framing didn't do them any justice. What remains is a sluggish, dull and drab black and white biography, not the kind of thing I'd expected Eisenstein to make.

Alexander Nevsky

Aleksandr Nevskiy
1938 / 112m - Soviet Union
Drama, War
Alexander Nevsky poster

As much as I see sound as an almost essential part of great cinema nowadays, the introduction really killed the medium for at least a decade (maybe even two). Even visual innovators like Eisenstein were completely lost after its introduction, which a film like Alexander Nevsky perfectly illustrates.

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The film itself is a bit of basic propaganda, celebrating Russian war efforts of the past. The attempted invasion of the Germans (led by the Teutonic Knights) was halted by Alexander and his army. The film tells of the 13th century battle between the two camps, the winner shouldn't really come as a surprise (for those not familiar with the history).

There's a lot of conversation, the overacting of silent cinema is still very much present and the editing is toned down compared to Eisenstein's earlier work. The battles are long and uneventful and the characters dull and caricatural. Not a great film, Eisenstein made better ones.

Battleship Potemkin

Bronenosets Potyomkin
1925 / 66m - Soviet Union
Battleship Potemkin poster