It is amazing to think that when this film was released in1938, many dismissed it as merely propaganda, as war loomed ahead with Germany. Though certainly the conditions of the time influenced the script, the film is an epic masterpiece. The history depicted in the story is of the Russians in 1242, already oppressed by the Mongols, being invaded by the Teutonic Knights.
Director Sergei Eisenstein, one of the pioneers of editing for dramatic effect, here created filming on a scale that is astounding. The famous battle sequence takes place on a frozen lake, with a cast of thousands, many who were a part of the regular army.
Eisenstein also collaborated extensively with the great classical composer Sergei Prokofiev, whose magnificent score is so intricately meshed with the cinematography by Eduard Tisse, and along with the spectacular battle scenes, the sweeping panoramas of desolate plains are also extraordinary.
Nikolai Cherkasov’s charisma and majestic presence fill the screen as Nevsky. He’s considered one of Russia’s greatest actors, and here as the warrior prince, he is a larger-than-life heroic figure, with blazing eyes and resonant voice.
An epic film that has influenced many of today’s filmmakers, this is one not to miss.