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Ivan the Terrible, Part 1 (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1945, Soviet Union) (aka Ivan Groznyy, or Иван Грозный)

In writer/director Sergei Eisenstein's film (his last film directed and completed) was released in the mid-1940s and hailed as a success, followed by Part II (Ivan Groznyy. Skaz vtoroy: Boyarskiy zagovor (1958)) completed by 1946, but suppressed and delayed until 1958 due to a ban by Stalin himself (who objected to the depiction of the ruler) - the epic, stagey film (harkening back to highly-stylized silent film techniques) characterized by expressionistic sets, facial closeups, heavy costuming, angled camera shots for contrast, stark light and shadows, huge sets, religious imagery and a score by Prokofiev:

  • this was an historical, costume-rich, operatic pageantry film about the idealistic and stern 16th century Ivan Vasilyevich, or Ivan IV, Duke of Moscow who ruled Russia from 1533 to 1547 as the anointed Tsar; his nickname Groznyy was usually translated as Terrible - and served as a parody of Russian ruler Josef Stalin; the entire film was mostly about court intrigue and his struggle against the plotting of the Boyars and his efforts to make them submit to his powerful will as Tsar; Ivan eventually consolidated power in himself through personal guards, secret police or "iron men" known as Oprichniki
  • the opening sequence - the coronation of young Grand Prince of Muscovy Ivan (Nikolai Cherkasov), by the approval of a land-owning nobility/bourgeoisie class (affluent and hereditary) known as the Boyars
Opening Sequence: Coronation of Grand Prince Ivan
  • Ivan's marriage to Anastasia Romanovna (Lyudmila Tselikovskaya), the Czarina, bearing a child - infant son Dmitri
  • his campaign against the Tartars in Kazan, Ivan's serious illness on his deathbed, and battles and campaigns to reclaim lost Russian territory
  • the scenes of major conflict with his own witchy and scheming boyarina Aunt Efrosinia Staritskaya (Serafima Birman) who plotted to assassinate him with the help of other traditionalists; she wanted to appoint her own dim-witted simpleton son Vladimir Andreyevich Staritsky (Pavel Kadochnikov) as the new Tsar; she also encouraged one of Ivan's friends, Prince Andrei Kurbsky (Mikhail Nazvanov), who lusted after Anastasia, to betray him; another friend Fyodor Kolychev (Andrei Abrikosov), became Archbishop Philip and then became part of a religious group that opposed Ivan along with the Boyars
  • Staritskaya's plotting and murder of Ivan's wife by having her drink from a large poisoned goblet of wine
Poisoning and Death of Ivan's Wife
  • Ivan's abdication of the throne in Moscow and self-imposed exile at the Alexandrov monastery before a populist movement (and an endless and massive procession of supporters streaming to him) demanded his return to save the country

Ivan with Anastasia

Ivan Groznyy (the Terrible)

Battle Against Tartars

Serious Illness

Ivan's Self-Imposed Exile


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