Alexander Nevsky had terrible hair, but a nice tunic. He lived a nine-hundred-ish years ago, and was a prince and a saint and a general all at once. He was the Christian Mohammed, the Orthodox Jeanne d'Arc, and he kept a peace with the Mongols, that the Russians of Rus might war against the Teutons, who were all a load of jerks.
This, then, is an anti-German film made in thirties Russia. It was intensely popular, then banned when the government realised how nice the Germans were, then unbanned and intensely popular again when the Germans became the enemies once more - all this inside three years. It was an exciting time.
The other thing for which the movie is famed is the battle on the ice, which takes up the latter third of the duration. It's a tremendous spectacle, and it left me thinking that Eisenstein could have made a really watchable 'Birth of a Nation' (1915). At the time it was the greatest battle in all of cinema, and it's hard to know when it was surpassed. The battle is immensely long, showing the overall flow of the fight, and great amounts of detail, from seething crowds to small moments of character or comedy. It's easy to see how we got from this to The Battle of Helm's Deep, and though I'm sure Tolkein had some experience of real-life battles I wouldn't be surprised if he had seen and enjoyed this film.
|Alexander Nevsky says 'Fish'.|
Don't buy the DVD - the print is soft and shaky - not to an offensive degree, but it could look much better. Get yourself the soundtrack instead, which comes with Prokofiev's music to 'Lieutenant Kijé' (1934) too.