Ivan the Terrible, Part 1

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  • Drama, Expressionism, Foreign, Historical, Period , produced in 1944 Soviet Union
  • Actors: Nikolai Cherkassov, Ludmila Tselikovskaya
  • Directed by: Sergei Eisenstein
  • Rating: 7.6 out of 10
  • Plot Summary: Originally conceived as a historical epic in three parts, Sergei Eisenstein's epic biography of Czar Ivan IV, the murderous 16th-century unifier of the Russian people, was truncated by the director's death in 1948, as he was about to begin part three. A spectacle of impressively baroque splendor, it remains one of the great anomalies of film history. Starring Nikolai Cherkassov as the eponymous ruler, the film opens with the 16-year-old's opulent coronation in 1546. He breaks with the custom of marriage to a foreign princess by marrying a Russian girl, Anastasia Romanovna (Lyudmila Tselikovskaya), thereby offending the nobility. In an effort to expand his territory eastward, he leads an army of 100,000 to seize Kazan, succeeding only after a long and bitter campaign. After contracting a seemingly fatal illness, Ivan summons the boyars, led by his aunt Euphrosinia (Serafima Birman), but they refuse his demand to swear allegiance to his one-year-old son, greatly angering the czar. When Ivan miraculously returns to health, he begins to consolidate power in opposition to the boyars. While Cherkassov gives a commanding performance, it's the film's unique visual quality, featuring spectacularly ornate set design and costumes, along with a performance style influenced by Russian classism, grand opera, and Kabuki theater, that makes it such a rewarding experience.
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