It should really come as no surprise that Ivan the Terrible was intended as a propaganda film for Stalin. In the early 1940’s, Joseph Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union, and even though Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, Hitler was invading Russia. Just can’t trust Hitler, can you? However, Stalin rallied by promoting socialism, collectivism, and the destruction of the “enemies of the working class”. Stalin admired Ivan IV (aka Ivan the Terrible) greatly, and believed that his struggle mirrored that of Ivan’s, so Stalin more or less commissioned this dramatic, richly costumed version of Ivan’s story, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, with music by none other than Sergei Prokofiev.
Ivan Vasilyevich was the Grand Tsar of Russia starting in 1547, over the protests of the other princes, the boyars, and many other folks who either didn’t like him or really didn’t like his wife, Anastasia Romonovna. (not that Anastasia. She came about 350 years later.). The fact that Ivan was called The Terrible is kind of a mistranslation. He was commonly known as Ivan Grozny, and grozny is closer to terrifying … but I suppose that has too many syllables for historians.
Anyhow, the movie starts with Ivan’s coronation, and even in black and white, the utter sumptuousness and grandiosity of the sets and costumes is obvious.
The first thing that Ivan does as Tsar, however, is the demand a national army to “unite” all the outlying lands of Russia under the crown. If you don’t want to or can’t serve as a soldier, then give me all your money. That includes you monasteries and churches too, you wealthy twits! Naturally, the boyars and the other wealthy despise this idea, and they do their best to undermine Ivan, who already had issues with mental illness and paranoia.
By the end of Part I Anastasia is dead (shown as poisoned by Ivan’s aunt, who is driven to get her mentally handicapped son Vladimir crowned as Tsar), Ivan decides to rid himself of all these pesky boyars and princes and ally himself with the common people, so long as he can be their savior.
Will Ivan prevail? Will his idea of the (not-exactly) autonomous collective with himself as supreme ruler become reality? Will Ivan go completely batshit crazy before he was able to unite Russia into one Union? Well, apparently the world had to wait until 1958 to find out, as Stalin hated Part II, so they all had to wait until he was dead for about 5 years. Fortunately, in these days of DVD delivery via mail, I get to find out tomorrow.
What is the K.C. knitting while watching?