Film / Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible (Russian Иван Грозный, Ivan Groznyy) was Sergei Eisenstein's second (and last) sound film. A Spiritual Successor to Alexander Nevsky. Made during World War II, with the support and help of Josef Stalin, whose personality-cult invoked Ivan IV, who was in any case a popular monarch in Russia.

This highly stylized two-part film chronicles the Rise of Ivan from a Prince henpecked by the Boyars, feudal nobleman, to a Czar who will unite Russia into a Kingdom. Part 1 chronicles the Prince's marriage, his benign and happy early years, his wars in the Kazan, personal tragedy and eventual rise. Part 2 shows the Prince preparing to stave off the Boyars from making a resurgence, establishing his special secret police, the Oprichniki, and finally embracing his destiny to be Groznyy(Terrible).

Eisenstein concieved of the film as a trilogy, yet only two parts were finished, with Part III being cancelled in mid-production, followed by Eisenstein's death a brief while later. Part I released in 1944 earned the director the Stalin Prize (Soviet Nobel Prize-cum-Oscar) and was well recieved internationally. The second part, shot back-to-back with the first one, was completed in 1946. However it was shelved, and it was released only in 1958 long after Eisenstein's and Stalin's death. Part II became especially famous for its color sequence (shot on Agfacolor film stock stolen by Red Army troops from the Nazis).

It is regarded as a classic of Soviet/Russian and world cinema and is available on The Criterion Collection.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Malyuta, Ivan's Side Kick, chief of Oprichnina is a Peasant who wants to execute aristocrats. 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: Ivan the Terrible and his Terror Squad, the Oprichniki.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: All of them, save for the Tsar 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. This makes it, ironically the most balanced 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • Freud Was Right: invoked Eisenstein who was deeply interested in Sigmund Freud and psychology, layered the entire film with subtext and visual cues to this effect. Stalin was not amused with his hero being made into a "Hamlet type" in Part II with the childhood flashback given by Eisenstein.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ivan IV hates the Boyars and is paranoid because as a young Prince, they separated him from his mother and killed her.
  • 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. Most notably in Part II, Ivan IV gives a Motive Rant as to why he hates the Boyas, noting that as a child they separated him from his mother. At the end of that, Ivan IV kills Vladmir in front of his mother Efrosinia.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Ivan IV was always better regarded in Russia than across Europe. Even aside from the Stalinist propaganda, the film does highlight the Tsar's drive to unify and centralize the monarchy and curtail the power of the corrupt noblemen, one reason for his real-life popularity. Part 1 does exaggerate the Tsar's "populism" however. The second part, however, shows Ivan IV building and empowering the Oprichniki.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Oprichniki in Part II, according to Stalin and the Central Committee. They are depicted as Ku Klux Klan-type fanatics rather than, in Stalin's words, "the progressive army"note .
  • Hollywood 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, at least in Part I, as a positive figure.
  • 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, and the reality at the end of Part II.
  • 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".
    "Henceforth, I shall be as you name me! I shall be...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.
  • Police State: The Oprichniki establish this in Part II, and Part III would have shown them at the height of their power. The only surviving scene from Part III, available on the Criterion DVD, shows them bullying Heinrich von Stadten.
  • 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!)
  • Reign of Terror: What Ivan and the Oprichniki establish at the end of Part II.
  • 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, culminating in the colour sequence.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Eisenstein concieved the film as a historical film in the tradition of Shakespeare's history plays (also propaganda for the Tudor and Jacobean monarchs) and so deliberately modelled the film on Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth.
    • Visually, the film is filled with a range of artistic and literary references. It alludes at several times to Gauguin, Giotto and other history painting in its compositions and references.
  • 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 B.S.O.D.: 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 Olde Butcherede Englishe: Everybody sticks a highly stylized language with a veneer of antiquity that has little to do with actual Old Russian.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/IvanTheTerrible