Ivan the Terrible
(Russian Иван Грозный, Ivan Groznyy
) was Sergei Eisenstein
's second (and last) sound film, a spiritual successor to Alexander Nevsky
. Made under direct supervision of Joseph the Terrible
, who idolized
Ivan IV and personally intervened
in the movie's production.
The first film of the projected trilogy was released in 1944, to critical applause; the director was awarded the Stalin Prize (Soviet Nobel Prize-cum-Oscar). The reasons for critical success were pretty obvious
: the movie presented Ivan the Terrible, a controversial and polarizing figure at the very least, as a national hero who bravely fought external and internal enemies in his quest to unite Russian lands.
The second part, shot back-to-back with the first one, was released only in 1958, five years after Stalin's death. The reasons were also very clear: It dealt with the dark side of the tsar's personality, and depicted his Oprichnina terror campaign
as Necessarily Evil
- but evil nonetheless. After having been shown the completed Part II in a private screening, Stalin flew into a rage, calling it a "horror of a film" and threatening to "take care" of its creators. The movie was shelved, the director fired, and production of the third part cancelled. The third film exists only as a script, a series of sketches, and several filmed scenes first shown to the general public in 1988.
Despite the fact that the movie hasn't aged well
, it is regarded as a classic of Soviet/Russian and world cinema.
This film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Malyuta, Ivan's Side Kick, chief of Oprichnina is a Peasant who wants to execute arisitocrats. That trope easily fits the Movie format. History!Malyuta was a low-rank aristo who resented high rank aristoes, explaining the Side Kick's character arc would have taken too long.
- Anti-Hero: You know who.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: All of them, save for the Tsar (hopefully) and Anastasia Glinskaia, Ivan's bride and Morality Pet.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Inverted. The movie begins with a lavish, 10-minute coronation scene.
- Badass Beard: Ivan's beard defies gravity. And boyars.
- Batman Gambit: The tsar's plan to eliminate his opposition.
- Black and Grey Morality: The boyars are a wicked and callous lot, but Ivan the Terrible is no angel, either. Which probably makes it ironically the most accurate of Eisenstein's films.
- The Caligula: Ivan during the Oprichnik dance scene (see below).
- The Chessmaster + Manipulative Bastard: Both Ivan and his nemesis Efrosinia Staritskaya. ("Yevrosinya"; your subtitles may vary)
- Crapsack World: Medieval Russia seems to be a really, really, really nasty place to live.
- Cultural Posturing: Both Ivan the Terrible and his enemies (e.g., the Tatar envoy and the Polish king) go through their share of national chest-thumping.
- Dawson Casting: Nikolay Cherkasov, 41, as Ivan the Terrible, 17 to mid-thirties.
- Deadly Decadent Court: The boyars.
- Defector from Decadence: Prince Kurbsky is hailed as one at the Polish court.
- Drag Queen + Creepy Crossdresser: Feodor Basmanov. Yes. In a 1945 Soviet Movie.
- Epic Movie: One of the most lavish spectacles of Stalin-era cinema.
- Ermine Cape Effect: The tsar wears some really wealthy clothing.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Efrosinia, of all people, has one of these moments in Part 2, when the Bishop[?] tells her he plans to let Philip be condemned, so they'll have a saintly martyr for their crusade against Ivan: "White is the cowl but black the soul!"
- Executive Meddling: Two words: Josef Stalin. (Considering the fallout from the second film, Executive Meddling from beyond the grave.)
- Face Heel Turn: Andrey Kurbsky and, arguably, Feodor Kolychov
- Foreshadowing: To Real Life, paralleling Russia's suffering in the time of Ivan the Terrible with its suffering in the Great Patriotic War.
- Gravity Master: Ivan, judging from his Badass Beard.
- He Who Fights Monsters: While fighting against insidious, immoral, and corrupt boyars, the tsar slowly descends into brutality, paranoia and outright madness.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The film glosses over most of Ivan's failures and vices, presenting him as a heroic personality (at least, in Part I). However, Part II makes Ivan look like a sociopath, and even Part I has a seething critique lurking riiiight under the surface.
Hollywood Mosfilm History: The movie takes many, many liberties with history. For instance, most of Ivan the Terrible's opponents are conflated into Eufrosinia Staritskaya and her son. In reality, Ivan the Terrible had seven wives; only one is shown in the film. Many events from his life are omitted or rearranged in sequence, etc. All this was done to present him as an unambiguously positive figure, a direct predecessor of the film's sponsor.
- Kick the Dog: Kurbsky's needless cruelty towards the Tatars foreshadows his betrayal of the tsar.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Both Ivan and Andrey Kurbsky wear ornate, shining plate armor during the siege scene.
- Lonely at the Top: The entire premise of the movie.
- Lost in Translation: Ivan's sobriquet, "Groznyi", really means more "Fearsome" than "Terrible"—but the modern English connotation of the word makes it sounds like, say, Pope John XII (AKA "Pope John the Bad").
- Morality Chain: The Czarina
- Name Drop: Averted (in Part 1)—nobody calls Ivan "the Terrible".
- Necessarily Evil + I Did What I Had to Do: The Oprichnina terror campaign.
- New Era Speech: Ivan makes one right after the coronation, much to the boyars' dismay.
- Notable Original Music: The Sergei Prokofiev score.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The oath of the Oprichniki, also a quote from Ivan himself, ends "For the sake of the GREAT! RUSSIAN! KINGDOM!" (Ради русского царства великого!)
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ivan the Terrible personally commands his army during the siege of Kazan and tirelessly works to strengthen his realm.
- Rule of Symbolism: The movie is rife with symbols, some pretty obvious, some quite intricate. The Other Wiki does a good job of sorting them out.
- Sanity Slippage: In the second movie, Ivan slowly descends into madness and wickedness.
- Screwed by the Network: The third film was cancelled after Stalin was not amused by the second one.
- Splash of Color: The Oprichnik banquet scene is filmed in color, making it look nightmarishly surreal.
- State Sec: The Oprichniki.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: The Czar decides to become a terror after repeated Boyar attempts against him.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Two foreign ambassadors exchange snide remarks about the tsar's reforms and ambitions.
- Villainous BSOD: Efrosinia has one at the end of Part 2.
- Villain Protagonist: By the later parts, Ivan has become the villain of his own story.
- Villain Song: Two or three of them, one sung by Feodor Basmanov and the oprichniks, another by Efrosinia, the third... if you consider the tsar a villain, that would be the theme song.
- Wicked Cultured: The protagonist is shown to be quite knowledgeable and refined for his era.
- World of Ham: The entire cast is fond of theatrics, eye-rolling, hand-waving and bombastic speeches.
- Ye Old Butcherede
Englishe Russhyanne: Everybody sticks a highly stylized language with a veneer of antiquity that has little to do with actual Old Russian.