Soviet Union, 1938
Review by Elena Goukassian
The final weekend of the Seattle International Film
Festival brought us the Soviet classic,
The 1938 film, a collaboration between film director Sergei
Eisenstein and composer Sergei Prokofiev, played at Benaroya
Hall on a big screen, with the Seattle Symphony and Chorale
performing the score.
It was a very interesting and well thought-out production. The
live orchestra really made the film come alive.
The plot of the film is historical, involving Prince Alexander Nevsky,
who became a hero of the Russian people and a saint in the
Orthodox Church for defeating the Swedes at the
Neva River in 1240 and the German crusaders at the battle on the
frozen Lake Peipus in 1242. The film recounts the latter victory
with great patriotism. A chorus of Russian soldiers sings again
and again of the power of the Russian people and their undying
love for the motherland.
When the people of Novgorod are told that the invaders are
coming, they take up arms immediately and call for their hero,
Alexander Nevsky, to lead the way--despite protests from local
aristocrats, who think they can buy their way out of a battle.
In the end, the common people triumph over the evil foreign
invaders. All the inherent patriotism and portrayal of the peasants as heroes
made this film one of Josef Stalin’s favorites. It wasn’t by
accident that Eisenstein and Prokofiev made the film so. Both of
them had lived in the West and, in the eyes of the Bolsheviks,
made friends with too many elitist westerners with their skewed
opinions of the world. This film, in effect, served as a way for
both the director and the composer to prove their loyalty to
Mother Russia despite their travels.
All political intrigue aside,
is very well-made. Prokofiev’s music flows seamlessly with the
camera shots, changing direction with the rotating frames.
Prokofiev and Eisenstein worked together on both the filmography
and the accompanying music, creating both simultaneously instead
of working the film angles to match a finished piece of music,
or vice versa. This was one of the first times a director and
composer had cooperated so intensely--and it shows.
The production with the Seattle Symphony was great. Hearing the live
orchestral and choral music created just the right mood for the
film. I thought the combination of film and orchestra for
was a wonderful idea, creating an excellent finished product.
2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise