It's the 13th century and the Mongols are invading Europe from the east, and Teutonic Knights are invading Slav lands from the west. Novgorod is an idyllic city, open to the waters on one side, vast steppes behind. Clean, pure living. Alexander Nevsky, Prince of Novgorod, Man of the People, is out fishing with his people as a good Soviet hero should. This is the classic film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, for which Sergei Prokofiev wrote the music. At BBC Prom 21, Andris Nelsons (a Latvian) is conducting Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky Cantata.
This is one of Sergei Eisenstein's masterpieces, made in 1937. Note date and place. Despite Stalin's repressive anti-modernism, Eisenstein manages to create a modernist icon by playing along with Stalinists stereotypes. One of the glories of this film is the stylized design, totally in tune with western avant garde film at the time. The Soviets can't wipe the Church out of history, so Eisenstein neutralizes it by depicting it in stylized art deco. See the neatly dressed peasants and priests. Then the Teutonic Knights at Pskov, dehumanized aliens in bizarre helmets. Look at the bishop in black, among monks in white. Or the mad monk in black who plays a portable organ to remind us that Religion Is a Drug. (it's powered by monks with bellows).
Wonderful camera angles, long sweeping lines, even clearer in this film than in Battleship Potemkin. Panoramic scenes, shot from heights to maximize scale. Fabulously choreographed crowd scenes and battles. The Battle on the Ice is magnificent! This is propaganda elevated to High Art.