Nikolai Cherkassov stars as the legenday Alexander Nevsky in Sergei Eisensteins masterpiece of propaganda, made with the assistance of Stalin, to stir up Soviet audiences in anticipation of a Nazi invasion. Withdrawn from release after the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939, it returned to Russian theaters in 1941, following the commencement of hostilities. The film is set in 13th-century Russia, as the religious brotherhood of the Teutonic Knights runs rampant throughout the land. Following the brutal sack of the city of Pskov, the people of Novgorod must decide if they will fight the invaders or, like other cities, bribe them to obtain peace. Opting to fight, they call on their greatest military leader, Alexander Nevsky, who is still recuperating with his troops from defeating the Swedish army. The historic battle on the frozen surface of Lake Peipus, pitting the peasant army of Nevsky against the better-equipped German force, is one of the most impressive spectacles in film history, a visual symphony of mutual slaughter as powerful now as on the day of its release. Because of Eisensteins use of linkage--seamless Hollywood-style editing rather than intellectual montage--and Prokofievs evocative, rhythmically inventive score, ALEXANDER NEVSKY might be the most accessible of his films.
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