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“Rise Up in Arms, O Russian People!” – Alexander Nevsky reviewed

Posted by Kris Roman on February 14, 2009

European Friends of Russia

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Sergei Eisenstein‘s masterpiece of Soviet propaganda, Alexander Nevsky

Like many Americans who grew up in the twilight of the Cold War, my first memories of Sergei Eisenstein’s film Alexander Nevsky come from the Tom Clancy novel Red Storm Rising. In Tom Clancy’s vision of World War III set in the 1980s, the Soviet Union broadcasts the film to stir up the Russian people just before the Red Army tanks start rolling into West Germany.

While young Russians still learn about Prince Alexander Nevsky in school, many of them are probably familiar with this name because of Russia’s own version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actorand star of popular action flicks like Moscow Heat. (Excerpt from Mr. Nevsky’s Russia Today TV interview aired in January 2007, spoken in his best Ah-nuld accent: “I didn’t want to play Russian bad guys in Hollywood. I wanted to play a Russian action hero. I say let the Polish and Czech actors play Russian bad guys in Hollywood movies.”)

Today happens to be the 765th anniversary of the climactic battle on the frozen Lake Peipus depicted in the film. Two questions a modern viewer might ask are: has this example of historic propaganda from Josef Stalin’s favorite director aged well? And does it present any themes relevant to post-Soviet Russia?

 

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