Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Sergei Eisenstein: Alexander Nevsky

A global cultural treasure, Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky / Алекса́ндр Не́вский (1938) drops us right into an epic primal struggle for survival. Nevsky (1220-1263) and his pocket of Novgorod Russians have cut a deal with leaders of the Mongol Horde to keep them, including the Tatars, at bay (paying tribute, trading), they've turned back a Swedish threat, and now they must face a brutal invasion by the German-led Holy Roman Empire. One quickly comes to understand the existential plight of the Russians: Swedes to the West, Mongols to the South and Southeast, Teutonic (actually Livonian) Germans to the Southwest, and icy wastelands to the North and East. "Why can't we all just get along" cannot enter this reality, even as a question. In Alexander Nevsky, there are only two existential choices for the protagonist: barter and fight and hope to survive, or do nothing and be massacred. That's an intense situation.
A rather pissed off looking Mongol prepares to move on to other pastures. Don't mess with the Golden Horde if you can help it. Eight hundred years later, people still shudder at their capabilities. One's tempted to wonder if they've actually become part of the collective unconscious . If not, they -- and other powerful groups like them -- have long since become part of a collective cultural conciousness. Hell, we even fear alien invasion and global pandemics in much the same way. 

Completed just three years before the German (Nazi) invasion of the Soviet Union, Eisenstein's film understandably made an impression that still resonates. There are scenes that give you the chills every time. In the perspective department, an excellent antidote to Entertainment Tonight and Dancing with the Stars.   

Today's Rune:  Movement.  

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