Director Sergei Eisenstein's epic "Alexander Nevsky" features some of the most beautiful imagery ever put on film, a majestic music score by Prokifiev and a dazzling, climactic battle on a frozen lake.
"Although I truly love the film (and the video tranfer is great), this DVD has the horrible 1930's recording of the soundtrack. Prokofiev's great score sounds like it is playing from an AM radio placed undera mattress. Unless you are truly wedded to DVD format, get the BMG video which includes an excellent re-recording of the score in modern stereo (along with a great video). We can only hope that the BMG version gets to DVD soon."
Great movie, bad DVD
Phil J | Lincoln, NE United States | 06/05/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I have watched Alexander Nevsky more times than I've watched any other movie. It is a great movie, deserving 5 stars. This particular DVD, however, is the worst transfer to DVD that I have seen. At first I intended to watch it on my computer. The image was so jumpy I could not watch it more than a few minutes. There are at least two versions of this movie with English subtitles on VHS. Both are worth watching. Some are older and have the "mistaken" music track. A new version was released in 1995 with new subtitles and a newly recorded score. There are editing changes in the 1995 version as well.I see that there is a version of Alexander Nevsky that is part of a 3-dvd set.
But at this date (May, 2002) there doesn't seem to be a single dvd of Alexander Nevsky that is worth watching.
There are Russian versions without subtitles and a few versions with English subtitles. I hope someone does a good tranfer of at least ONE of the versions to a single DVD soon."
"with their crimson blood they have fed our soil"
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 05/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is amazing to think that when this film was released in1938, many dismissed it as merely propaganda, as war loomed ahead with Germany. Though certainly the conditions of the time influenced the script, the film is an epic masterpiece. The history depicted in the story is of the Russians in 1242, already oppressed by the Mongols, being invaded by the Teutonic Knights.
Director Sergei Eisenstein, one of the pioneers of editing for dramatic effect, here created filming on a scale that is astounding. The famous battle sequence takes place on a frozen lake, with a cast of thousands, many who were a part of the regular army.
Eisenstein also collaborated extensively with the great classical composer Sergei Prokofiev, whose magnificent score is so intricately meshed with the cinematography by Eduard Tisse, and along with the spectacular battle scenes, the sweeping panoramas of desolate plains are also extraordinary.Nikolai Cherkasov's charisma and majestic presence fill the screen as Nevsky. He's considered one of Russia's greatest actors, and here as the warrior prince, he is a larger-than-life heroic figure, with blazing eyes and resonant voice.
An epic film that has influenced many of today's filmmakers, this is one not to miss.
There are a few signs of age in this film, it has been well restored, though the subtitles are sometimes in awkward syntax. Total running time is 108 minutes."
Classic, Heroic Propaganda
Roger Kennedy | 03/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is good propaganda, and bad. Alexander Nevsky obviously falls into the former category. So much about this film seems prophetic. Done in 1938, the former Soviet Union stood on the brink of war, as did the rest of the world at that time. This is a film that celebrates the heroic Slavic spirit of yore. There were also many useful similarities for comparison. Like 13th Century Rus, Russia in 1938 faced enemies both to the East and West. A recent victory over the Japanese in 1938 helped to erase memories of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and it seems no coincidence that Eisenstein was allowed to make this film at that time. Make no mistake about it, this is a film born out of Soviet-Stalinist propaganda of the period. No viewer can truly understand this film without understanding that reality.
In its scope and production value one is reminded of a simlier film done in Facist Italy around this time celebrating the exploits of Ancient Rome - "Scipio Africanus." Both films draw on inspirational leaders of the past to serve up useful propaganda for the present.
In this film Rus is besiged on all sides by enemies. The Mongols had conquiered much of the land by this time. To the West there are the Crusading Teutonic Knights seeking to exercise a Lebenstraum of their own in the 13th Century. Nevsky, a local prince seems the natural leader that the great city of Novgorod needs. Again, we see nationalistic ideas expressed here that were surely beyond the outlook of the time. Few could have had any notion of a greater Rus in such Feudal times. For Eisenstein's propaganda we must have a strong and inspirational Alexander Nevsky. The actor who plays him is certainly impressive looking, but hardly any great thespian! Actually all of the characters hwon in the film are pretty one dimensional. Indeed, much of the acting here is wooden at best, but there is certain sarcastic humor which is nonetheless appealing. The crude love interest between two leading males and the Russian princess is an attempt to throw some light fair into the otherwise heavy story. The Teutonic Knights are shown in all their horid glory. Seldom is evil shown more impressively on screen than here! With dark faces, cruel eyes and heavy looks the Knights look every bit the part of the latter day nazi's. Depicted here they are nazi's of the Middle Ages, and their white-hooded cavalry brings up images of the KKK almost! There is also a very blatant slap at the cathloic church sanctioning in the film the slaughter of innocents and babes. Is it not surprising that a Soviet film should condemn Rome as Rome had done the same to them! Surprising is the lack of the Orthedox church in the film, which certainly would have been a main source of moral support for resistence against its enemies. Only at the end of the film are they shown briefly before Nevsky dominates the final scene.
The battle of Lake Peipis in 1214 is the central theme of the movie. This is magnificently done. The initial charge of the Knights over the ice is one of the most impressive cinematic cavalry charges on film. Whether such a charge was actually done against massed infantry with long spears seems debatable. Such an infantry phalanx would have been almost impervious against heavy cavalry in this period. The hand-to-hand combat scenes are as good as anything you might see today. There is also that sardonic since of humor thrown in as well. The massive battle ebbs and flows. The amazing thing is that these are extras, not computer graphics! We see some interesting examples of tactics as the German Knights are shown to rally in a close formation with lances supported by cross bows and light troops. Eisenstein wants to show us the terror of Germanic discipline. But Russian elan and spirt overcomes all and the knights are finally sent in head-long retreat until they are swallowed up by the thin ice on the lake. Again, this seems somewhat like enduring myth, but most myths do have some ground for basis if closley examined. No doubt so knights were lost in this way.
The film concludes with a victory procession and the one-dimensional characters finding happiness in their newly won freedom. The DVD does the film little justice as no attempt has been made to clear up the picture or improve the sound track. Prokofiev's interesting music sounds like it is coming out of a submarine. This film badly needs a Criterion production to fashion it up like the classic it truly is. Still, don't turn it down because of this problem. This film shall remain a classic of its kind. See it for its granduer, humor and depiction of a famous hero of Slavic yore. "
David G Doren | St Paul, MN, USA | 05/17/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"All the complaints about this DVD in the previous reviews are valid. The sound is so bad, you should familiarize yourself with the music before you watch it so that you know what you are missing. But still, this is one of the greatest films ever made and until we get a better version, this is a must have DVD for any serious film lover. This is a 5 star film with 1 star for the transfer"