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Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein (January 23, 1898 - February 11, 1948) was a Russian director noted for his films Battleship Potemkin and Oktober, both based loosely on a true story and presented in a realistic fashion, causing an immeasurable influence on early documentary directors.

Eisenstein was a pioneer in the use of editing. He believed that film editing was more than merely a method used to link scenes together in a movie; he felt that careful editing could actually be used to manipulate the emotions of the audience. He performed long research into this area, and developed what he called montage. His published books The Film Form and The Film Sense explain his theories of montage, and they have been highly influentials to many Hollywood directors.

Eisenstein did not use professional actors. His narratives eschewed individual characters and addressed broad social issues, especially class conflict. He used stock characters, and the roles were filled with untrained people from the appropriate class backgrounds.

Eisenstein's loyalty to the ideals of Communism brought him into conflict with a number of officials in the ruling regime of Josef Stalin. Stalin was very much aware of the power of motion pictures as a propaganda tool, and he considered Eisenstein to be a controversial figure. Eisenstein's popularity and influence waxed and waned with the success of his films. The Battleship Potemkin was a popular hit worldwide, and its success was a factor in Eisenstein being selected to direct October: Ten Days That Shook The World as part of a grand 10th anniversary celebration of the October Revolution of 1917. However, the film was not nearly as successful as Potemkin.

Eisenstein toured North America during the 1930s, visiting Hollywood and befriending a number of influential celebrities there. However, this caused Stalin to look upon him with a more suspicious eye, and this suspicion would never be completely erased in the mind of the Stalinist elite. Political red tape forced the cancellation of Eisenstein's next two film projects, and an official supervisor was appointed to look after Eisenstein during the making of Alexander Nevsky.

His film, Ivan The Terrible, Part I, presenting Ivan IV of Russia as a national hero, won Stalin's approval (and a Stalin Prize), but the sequel, Ivan The Terrible, Part II was not approved of by the government. All footage from the still-incomplete Ivan The Terrible: Part III was confiscated, and most of it was destroyed (though several filmed scenes still exist today).

Eisenstein suffered a hemorrhage and died at the age of 50. An unconfirmed legend in film history states that his brain was preserved by Russian scientists, and it supposedly was much larger than a normal human brain...which the scientists took as a sign of genius.

Filmography: Strike! (1924), The Battleship Potemkin (1925), October: Ten Days That Shook The World (1927), Bezhin Meadow (unfinished), Que Viva Mexico! (unfinished), Alexander Nevsky (1938), Ivan The Terrible, Part I, Ivan The Terrible, Part II, and Ivan The Terrible, Part III (unfinished).

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Sergei Eisenstein Facts

Birth NameSergei Mikhailovich Eizenshtein
BirthdayJanuary 23, 1898
BirthplaceRiga, Latvia
Date of deathFebruary 11, 1948 (Moscow, Russia, age 50)
Height5' 7" (1m70)  How tall is Sergei Eisenstein compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Alexander Nevsky Criterion Collection
Battleship Potemkin
Alexander Nevsky
Que Viva Mexico
Ivan The Terrible
Ivan The Terrible Part 1
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