Jan 22, 1898 - Feb 11, 1948

Sergei Eisenstein: My Art in Life

Eisensteins Universum, Film Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Sergei Eisenstein is best known as the director of "The Battleship Potemkin" and the father of film montage.   

Life as Art
Eisenstein's life was rich in unexpected turns and temptations. As a Soviet artist he encountered the European bohème and the Hollywood machine, he learned to live under Stalin—in a mix of prohibition, seduction, fear, and conformity. In his art—for Eisenstein the true reality and only necessity—he hits upon the wounds of the century: violence and mass murder; the eroticism of the masses and the urban space this eroticism conquers; the fragmentation of perception and the longing for a lost totality.

The Mexican painter Roberto Montenegro depicted Sergei Eisenstein on the fresco The New World as a Spanish conquistador of the 16th century, as a conqueror of the world – but with a film between his fingers, the instrument of his conquest.

Eisenstein is expected to become an architect like his father, but the Revolution interferes with these plans. He experienced the Revolution as his personal liberation and become a director.
At 27, Eisenstein was known as a Revolutionary artist around the world.
At 50, he died as an illustrious but banned academic.

“The slogan ‘Me too’ is the basic formulae of my activity in the field of art. This sort of ‘malice’ forced me to learn how to make passable architectural sketches, shoot films, stage theatrical productions, learn to write articles, ceaselessly be inventing some significant thing or other, without fail to ‘discover’ something in the field of artistic method, etc. etc. The objects of my jealousy are completely unexpected.” Eisenstein

Childhood: Causiness and Loneliness
In 1909 the Eisensteins were divorced on grounds of the mother’s infidelity. The child remained with the father, the court councilor and civil engineer Mikhail Osipovich Eisenstein in Riga.

In Eisenstein's films, children must die violent deaths.

Order and Play: The illogical negates logic
Eisenstein’s father supervised strictly the education of his only child and monitored his son’s pastimes. “My protest against what was ‘acceptable’ in behavior and art. And my contempt of authority, were certainly linked to him.” His drawings depicted another – playful, anarchical – world. 

“For some reason, I did not study drawing. And when I had to draw plaster figures, teapots and Dante's mask it came out all wrong.” Eisenstein

Eisenstein’s first great passion was the circus, for it demonstrated a perfect body—lithe, nimble, and even magical. A pantomime that had impressed him greatly as a child enacted the story of a lost body. The clown was able to run away from his own body.

Civil Engineer or Artist?
On 25 July 1915, Eisenstein enrolled in the Institute of Civil Engineering in St. Petersburg. He followed his father's well path —and moved to St. Petersburg to live with his mother. He wanted to study painting and transfer to the Academy of Fine Arts, but was advised by his teacher that he had no talent.
The Masks of Commedia dell’Arte 
Eisenstein was introduced to the world of the Commedia dell’ Arte by Carlo Gozzi’s play “Princess Turandot”, directed by Fyodor Komissarzhevsky. He attended the production on 10 October 1914: “It was Komissarzhevsky who made me mad about the theater." This passion inspired Eisenstein’s series of characters from the Commedia dell’Arte and later influenced his own theatrical productions. 
Detective Novel 
Eisenstein read the detective novels by Arthur Conan Doyle, G. H. Chesterton or S. S. Van Dine as a modern form of the mystery play: the detective’s flash of inspiration enables him to make causal connections of apparently unrelated events and traces. He found that his images were often indebted to the book covers heralding the adventures of Nat Pinkerton and Nick Carters. 
Revolution and Art
Theater became Eisenstein’s true passion. This sensual, chaotic experience worked against order. On 25 February 1917, two days before Nicholas II abdicated the throne, Eisenstein went to the theater to see Vsevolod Meyerhold's production of “Masquerade”. He compared “Masquerade” (not the collapse of the Russian Empire) to a thunderclap that defined his vague intention to become an artist.
Freemasons and Proletkult
In 1918 Eisenstein was drafted into the Red Army. During his service Eisenstein joined a Rosicrucian Lodge. His new friends helped him to get sent to Moscow to study Japanese at the General Staff Academy and soon introduced him to the theatrical élite of the capital: they were all members of the same clandestine Lodge.
Squares, Circles, Triangles
Eisenstein's first professional theater production as costume designer was "The Mexican”, a play about an anarchist rebellion. It was premiered during the bloody repression of the revolt of 27,000 armed sailors in Kronstadt. Eisenstein suggested to the director Valentin Smyshlyaev moving the boxing ring into the audience and letting the actors box for real. The theatrical illusion was replaced by the tension of a match. With this innovation, the director Eisenstein was born.
Set and Costume Designs 
In 1921 Eisenstein enrolled as a student at the Higher Theatre Directors' Workshop headed by Vsevolod Meyerhold. The avant-garde artist Liubov Popova taught stage design. She abolished the term ‘set’ and replaced it with ‘stage construction’, in which she emphasized the dynamic elements, such as wheels or stairways. She rejected Eisenstein’s student work as too conventional. 

„My plan for staging: the false audience faces us as do the conductor of the orchestra and the prompter; beneath the stage: the playwright, technicians, and workers.” Eisenstein, Diary, 1921-12-22

The Elective Father: Vsevolod Meyerhold
Meyerhold was the new father figure. Soon he rejected his pupil as a traitor who was selling his own ideas in competition: Eisenstein worked as costume designer at Nikolai Foregger’s theatre. Eisenstein compared his apprenticeship by Meyerhold with Hell and their break-up with the expulsion from Paradise. 

In 1936 Meyerhold gave Eisenstein his photo with dedication: “I am proud of my pupil who has now become a master. I love the master who has now founded a school. I bow to this pupil and master...”

"The Wise Man" 
The best way Eisenstein found of overcoming the trauma of expulsion was to found his own group, in which he took the place of the beloved tyrant, as director. With a group of young student actors he staged "The Wise Man," based on a play by Alexander Ostrovsky "Even a Wise Man Stumbles" (1868). An influential patron first promotes the young man (Glumov), then drops him.

Eisenstein built into the play a short film, entitled "Glumov’s Diary" which was made it in the manner of his beloved American series "The Exploits of Elaine."

The performance resembled a circus act. Moscow merchants were turned into political clowns and depicted as French generals, Russian émigrés, or Italian Fascists.

The Montage of Attractions
Eisenstein conceived of theater as a method of attacking the audience’s psyche. The production combined different stimuli: stunts, songs, tricks, film fragments, he called them attractions. The assemblage of attractions allowed to create a combination of stimuli that would train social reflexes such as class solidarity, drawing upon Ivan Pavlov’s research on the conditioned reflex. In 1923 Eisenstein published in LEF, the journal of the Left Front of the Arts, "The Montage of Attractions", his first theoretical manifesto: “An attraction … is any aggressive moment in theatre, i.e. any element of it that subjects the audience to emotional or psychological influence, verified by experience and mathematically calculated to produce specific emotional shocks in the spectator in their proper order within the whole. These shocks provide the only opportunity of perceiving the ideological aspect of what is being shown, the final ideological conclusion.”.
"Strike"
Eisenstein was fascinated by film. The radical avant-garde approach to art—deformation, fragmentation, dynamism, discontinuity, simultaneity, penetration of space and time—now became technically grounded. Film gave Eisenstein total freedom to play with stimuli, space, time, causality, the human body, and rhythm.  

After his first experience with film, Eisenstein discovered that he could apply his montage of attraction more effectively in the new art. In "Strike," the masses in front of the camera were dressed as Russian proletarians. Their actions unfolded in the spaces of industrial modernity: in factories, on bridges, in the city.

Eisenstein’s radical montage was the innovation. He jumped from shots of an ox being slaughtered to the massacre of workers. The horror experienced through witnessing a real death was transposed onto the scene of the human massacre.

"The Battleship Potemkin" 
Eisenstein divided his film about a mutiny on a ship of the Tsarist fleet in 1905 into five acts—just like a classical tragedy. He had not only created a most impressive picture of revolutionary martyrdom. Eisenstein had also shown that political art could be moving and still remain art. The film projected a new understanding of cinema and a different type of hero—the masses. 

“I am a civil engineer and a mathematician by profession. I approach the creation of a film in the same way I would the design of a poultry farm or the installation of water pipes. My attitude is thoroughly utilitarian, rational and materialistic. Our psychological method is taken on the one hand from the teaching of the great Russian scientist, Pavlov, who tested the principle of reflexes in practice, and on the other, from the teachings of Freud." Eisenstein

"October, or 10 days that Shook the World" (1928) and the Intellectual Montage
The tenth anniversary of the October Revolution needed a major film. The only director who came into question was Eisenstein. Filming at original historical sites with advisors who had stormed the palace ten years earlier, Eisenstein began thinking of a deeply symbolic film that would destroy all symbolism as a form of ridiculous fetishism. 

No Hollywood-style sets were built for this film—Eisenstein was allowed to shoot in the Winter Palace itself.

"The Winter Palace is exotic.This is unbelievably rich cinematic material.Its own electric station. Wine cellars. Reception rooms. One bedroom is worth 300 icons and 200 porcelain Easter eggs. A bedroom that no contemporary psyche could stand.” Eisenstein discovered the perversion and absurdity of power in the perversion of the seized things. The revolution would lead to the liberation from this absurd world of objects.

In "October", Eisenstein invented a new language that visualized thought. He called his new theory ‘intellectual film’. People needed to be taught to ‘see’ intellectual film just as they were taught how to read and write. In 1928 he planned to film "Capital" and apply James Joyce’s associative inner monologue to Marx illustrating the dialectic of history.

The shot accumulated conflicts of foreground and background, of lines, contours, volumes, spots of light, masses, direction of movement, lighting, of an event and its temporal depiction in slow motion or time-lapse. Conflicts ‘tore apart’ the image and on the intersection of two pictures lead to something that cannot be graphically represented: an idea.

"The General Line, or The Old and the New" (1929): Freud and Constructivism
Stalin commissioned from Eisenstein a film about his ‘General line’: He had to re-shape the world-wide image of backward Russia and to depict the countryside in transformation with revolutionary momentum and American matter-of-factness. Eisenstein asked a Constructivist architect Andrei Burov to build a set of an ultramodern farm in the style of Le Corbusier’s buildings. 

Eisenstein combined Freud and Constructivism: machines should experience orgasm, and animals should copulate in the manner of mythical beasts. His camera cut the Russian landscapes into the most eccentric angles. The montage followed the syncopated rhythms of American jazz.

Japan, Montage and the Sound Film: an unexpected juncture 
In his afterword for the book "Japanese film" (1929), entitled "Beyond the Shot", Eisenstein compared montage to Japanese hieroglyphs: Two signs put together make a new meaning – just as images in the film montage. He discovered in Kabuki a radical solution to the problems of sound film. "‘I hear with my eyes’ and ‘I see with my ears’ = ‘I perceive’, "as it happened in Kabuki!"
The Spherical Book
In 1929 Eisenstein conceived of the radical project of a spherical book, look at montage through music, Japanese hieroglyphs, linguistics, reflexology, psychology, and dialectics and make apparent their interconnection: "Such a synchronic manner of circulation and mutual penetration of the essays could be carried out only in the form of a sphere."
The Journey, 1929-1932 
On 19 August 1929, accompanied by his assistant Grigory Alexandrov and his cameraman Eduard Tissé, Eisenstein set off on a long journey through Western Europe. He met producers, film stars, artists, psychoanalysts, Nobel Prize winners, millionaires and patrons of the arts, gave interviews, lectured at universities and looked for film offers. 

Eisenstein's calendar was completely booked; a new celebrity awaited him each day.

In early September 1929, Eisenstein attended the Congress of Independent Filmmakers in La Sarraz, in Switzerland. He made a film with the congress participants called "The Storm over La Sarraz," a playful allegory about the struggle of independent film against commercial cinema. Eisenstein himself played Don Quixote. With hindsight, this role looks like a carnivalesque precursor of his later battles against the windmills of Hollywood.

In Zurich Eisenstein, Alexandrov and Tissé made an educational film "Frauennot—Frauenglück", "Women’s Misery—Women’s Happiness," about abortion film ordered by a Swiss producer Lazar Wechsler. They spent a week shooting at the gynecological clinic in Zurich. Eisenstein later denied that he had directed this movie, although several photographs taken on set contradict his account. .

Kiki, the famous model of many Montparnasse artists, painted in Paris a portrait of Eisenstein that was published on 12 February 1930 in the magazine "Pour Vous." Kiki gave Eisenstein the oil painting with the dedication: “Car moi aussi j'aime les gros bateaux et les matelots”, “For I also love big ships and sailors."

First experiment with sound film: “We have written in or drawn in sound, increased and reduced the tempo; we have made the sound go backwards, regulated it in special ways and recorded sound to pre-exposed film. Our work with sound deformation and the creation of new, previously non-existent sounds was successful and created an unusually strong physiological effect.” Eisenstein

Hollywood
In May 1930, Eisenstein signed a contract with Paramount. In Hollywood, he worked on the story of a transparent skyscraper and the dark passions, "The Glass House," wrote the scripts "Sutter’s Gold" about gold diggers and "An American Tragedy" based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel. The bosses at Paramount found Eisenstein’s scripts too pessimistic and unusable during the Depression. The contract was cancelled. 

"Paramount and I parted ways. But I wasn’t left destitute. I carried away with me the concept that I had discovered through this work, the principle of the inner monologue in film. Joyce in literature, O'Neill in drama, we in cinema! In literature – good, in drama – bad, in cinema – best.” Eisenstein

"Que viva Mexico!"
Eisenstein decided to take a risk—making a film in Mexico. The writer Upton Sinclair emerged as his financier. Mexico was a fashionable subject for left-wing American intellectuals and Eisenstein made a name for himself. Eisenstein was assisted by the Mexican painters: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Siqueiros and Roberto Montenegro.

Instead of the four months in Mexico envisaged in the contract, Eisenstein remained for fourteen and was unable to finish the film: shortage of money, chaos in the production, the intrigues of Sinclair’s brother-in-law, who was acting as production manager, and illness all took their toll. Then Sinclair brought the shooting to a halt. The film was released in a versions edited by Sol Lesser, Marie Seton and Paul Burnford that Eisenstein never saw.

Mexican Drawings 
In Mexico, Eisenstein was confronted with mythological ways of thinking that overwhelmed him—it seemed not to distinguish between life and death, body and spirit, object and subject, male and female. Sensuality and sexuality acquired completely new meanings. He interpreted Mexican architecture as the materialized unconscious that was liberated by drugs and projected onto the outside world. After a long hiatus he again began to draw.

“It was in Mexico that my drawing underwent an internal catharsis, striving for mathematical abstraction and purity of line.” Eisenstein

The cycle “Duncan’s death” consists of 150 drawings. Eisenstein practiced this serial technique and understood it as a conscious experiment that allowed him to develop an automatism in line-drawing and to free himself from mimetic depiction in favor of abstraction. The sketches were a kind of écriture automatique, a stream of the unconscious, a graphic anticipation of his thoughts. Eisenstein practiced this sketching technique to outline his figures in a single uninterrupted movement of the pencil. He worked with geometrical lines and with oval, fluid forms. The first become instruments of death (the cross or the sword) around which amorphous bodies are entwined.

Corrida and Golgotha
The toreros and the bulls change places, are crucified or are united in a deadly embrace. They do not only invoke death celebrated as an orgy, but also rebirth. Christian heroes are transformed into heathen gods of seasonal recurrence. Mexico became a mystery in Eisenstein’s epic: a cosmogony of life and death. Here he understood art as a transition from biological mortality to social immortality.

“Bullfighting is also a merging with the totem, at first by killing it (to eat it later in a restaurant!) with an equal risk of being killed. Bullfighting envisages at its turning point the transition from devouring to being devoured. The piercing of the animal by the hunter’s spear is simultaneously a mystical merging. A ritual element here + a practical one. We can say that the first (ritual moment) survived in this form and in bullfighting.” Eisenstein

On 9 December 1931, Stalin received a file with press cuttings about Eisenstein. Amongst other things it contained this excerpt from the Berlin "Film Kurier": “Hollywood is Making a Stalin Film: Is Eisenstein Collaborating?” The script was written by a well-known Trotskyite, Isaac Don Levine. A telegram signed by Stalin was dispatched to Sinclair: “Eisenstein has lost the trust of our comrades in the Soviet Union and is regarded as a deserter.” It demanded his return. Eisenstein obeyed.

Eisenstein started a film "Bezhin Meadow," based on a real story: A 14 year old boy denounced his father to the GPU and was murdered by him. Eisenstein believed that he could ennoble the story through his art and raise the plot above current politics onto a mythological plane: the Oedipal revolt of the son or the ritual revenge of a father trying to save his own flesh and blood from the state.

The Central Committee of Communist Party intervened and stopped the production. The critics attributed Eisenstein’s misinterpretation to his fascination with myths, to the interweaving of the archaic and the modern. This propensity had led him to anthropomorphize nature and to present a clear case of class warfare as a Hellenistic tragedy in the spirit of Nietzsche, as a mystery play with choruses and mythological figures who succumbed to irrational fate: “Nietzsche, Lévy-Bruhl and Joyce are of no help to a Soviet artist.”

Terror and Violence
From 1930 onwards the Soviet state launched a large scale campaign of political repression. Eisenstein’s close friends were arrested and executed. Terror was omnipresent. Eisenstein produced his cycles of drawings "Délire" and "Nothingness"—tortured, flowing, interconnected, self-perpetuating figures without heads that formed pyramids and circles. 

In his films, Eisenstein produced powerful images of cruelty and was able to stage large-scale scenes of massacre. Could Eisenstein’s art inspire this violence? Was it mere chance that Goebbels demanded a “National Socialist 'Battleship Potemkin’” from his artists? Eisenstein knew about these dangers and was aware of their extent. At the beginning of the 1930s he was on the point of giving up “this shameful business of art”.

Mei Lanfang and China 
In late March 1935, when the Peking Opera was playing in Moscow, Eisenstein was able to film the famous female impersonator Mei Lanfang in "Rainbow Crossing," a production in the Opera’s repertoire. For Eisenstein this 41 year old man was the most beautiful and charming woman that he had ever seen. He devoted an essay to the art of Mei Lanfang—"To the Magician of the Pear Garden." 

Ecstasy constituted the heart of Eisenstein’s research. He analyzed it using the example of the religious mystics, the effects of drugs, and studied the creation of ecstasy in the arts— beyond the individual experience.

Eisenstein’s erotic drawings and jokes shocked many of his contemporaries. He vehemently denied his homosexuality: “I have never felt a homosexual longing, not even for Grisha [Alexandrov]. Perhaps I have a bisexual tendency, like Zola or Balzac, but on an intellectual level.”

In Eisenstein’s eyes, the Mexicans were the most attractive because the men had not lost their feminine aspect and the women looked like men. Images of women-like-men and men-like-women are superimposed on both his male and female characters.

Living Space
Eisenstein's apartment struck visitors with extravagance. A brocade chair stood next to a Bauhaus piece; the chandelier was made out of the remnants of four old cameras. A wooden angel from a church served as a tie and suspender rack. Sometimes a Menorah took over that function. His enormous bed was covered by a bright Mexican rug. But most of the space was taken up by books. 
"Alexander Nevsky" 
The commissioned film about the Battle of Russians against the Teutonic Knights was not a reenactment of distant history. Fascists in brown uniforms were transformed into Teutons clad in white, the helmets of the Russian Knights resembled Red Army headgear. 

Many of Eisenstein’s drawings for this film are compositionally structured around the swastika, but the bodies are reminiscent of the flowing lines of his cycle "Nothingness."

The central episode of the film, the battle on the ice of Lake Peipus, was filmed during a July heat wave. 40 stuntmen were used for the mounted battle. The film was a box office hit, but Eisenstein knew what he had sacrificed. Some colleagues mockingly called "Nevsky" a daytime two-penny opera. Eisenstein’s diary entry for April 1939 reads, in French and English: ‘Traumatisme d’Alexandre. It is the first film in which I abandoned the Eisenstein touch… You ought to be ashamed of yourself, dear Master of Art!”

Vertical Montage
"Alexander Nevsky" was Eisenstein’s first collaboration with Sergei Prokofiev and his first completed sound film. He called a correspondence between sound and image “Vertical Montage”. The movement of the music made the movement within the image perceptible—it highlighted not only the evident physical motion, but also the hidden emotional dynamism. The music enabled the viewer to grasp the visual structure of the image. 

Prokofiev’s ability to filter rhythm from a given image and offer a musical equivalent remained a fascinating mystery for Eisenstein. They were bonded over their enthusiasm about Disney.

Disney and the Fluidity of Form
During his stay in Hollywood, Eisenstein visited Disney’s studio. At the entrance, he had his picture taken with Mickey Mouse, and sent it to Pera Atasheva in Moscow signed: “To my best friend in the USSR with my best friend in the USA.” In 1944 he wrote an essay on Disney. Disney’s fleeing lines and expanding shapes represented for Eisenstein the longing for the lost freedom.
The Enclosed Line  
The line is the limitation of form, but in Disney’s case, the line is in perpetual motion. Through motion, the flowing line of the drawing is guided toward plasticity and becomes animated. This form embodies the very essence of art, a profoundly mythological and archaic activity. The primordial elements like water, fire, air, and sand all contain these protoplasmic properties. These features defined also Eisenstein’s drawings style.

“I always draw … with a closed contour. Apparently, it's precisely from this that they obtain such a dynamically intense effect.” Eisenstein

“In drawings of the accompanying type (very similar to the Macbeth-series) there is yet another 'plasmatic' factor: the figures 'hover' in space; that is, the atavism in them belongs to the period before being set upon solid ground, to the amoebic-plasmatic stage of movement in liquid. This is the graphic equivalent to the sensation of 'flight' among ecstatics: an identical uterine sensation of gyroscopicness and the identical phylogenetic pre-stage—the floating of the amoebic-protoplasmatic state in a liquid environment.” Eisenstein

Jewishness and Walküre
Eisenstein’s Father, Mikhail Osipovich, was a German Jew who had converted to Christianity. The mother came from the family of the Russian affluent merchants. Eisenstein never spoke about his Jewish background.  In 1939, after a pact had been signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, he was amused by the fact that he, a half-Jew, had been awarded the contract to direct the allies’ new national epic, Wagner's "Die Walküre." 
Teacher 
On May 12 1928, Eisenstein opened a Directors Lab for at the Film Institute GIK. The first assignment was to read Émile Zola’s novels and to analyze how the French writer represented love, death, and ecstasy. He continued to teach until his death and directed a program for the training of directors that resembled a plan for the formation a Renaissance individual. Applicants for his seminar included Jay Leyda, Herbert Marshall, and Samuel Beckett.
Writing
Late in life Eisenstein viewed his research as his only possible means of salvation from the compromises he had consciously made with himself and his creativity. But his grandiose books on mise-en-scène and the psychology of art, on montage, pathos, method and on close up through the history of arts were not published during his life time.

“I think it’s the first time in my life that I am completely content with the way a book of mine has been published. They could not have done a better job. The cover is even just the way I wanted it: boulevard yellow and black, like a detective story. Against that background, my face with an absolutely indecent look in my eyes and a Mona Lisa smile.” Eisenstein

Manuscripts
In Eisenstein’s manuscripts all languages―Russian, German, English, French and Spanish―are mixed together and thrown back into a ‘primordial’ non-syntactic state. Verbs are omitted, and sentences are studded with parentheses, dashes, and hyphens, which impart the nuances of writing-gesture and intonation. He writes on the most varied types of paper―on the back of his own manuscripts and other people’s screenplays, on the stationery of the Mosfilm studio or of the film committee, on concert programs or calendar sheets.

“How does one become Eisenstein?” his students asked. He offered several explanations. First: philosophy, like cocaine, kills joy but releases from pain. Second: the legend of a warrior who saves all his strength for a future deed and suffers humiliation in the meantime: Third: George Bernard Shaw’s Soldier, which cooled his youthful bent for pathos with irony. “And then I spent my whole life with screen ‘canvases’ in the heroic style!”

"Ivan the Terrible"
In January 1941, Eisenstein received an offer to make a film about the Tsar Ivan the Terrible. No Russian philosopher has been able to ignore this monarch, a sadist and a pervert, a homosexual who married seven times. Now the times dictated a new interpretation of his character. Stalin wanted this mirror for himself, to be able to justify his terror, which had claimed millions as its victims, in the name of a grand raison d’état. 

Eisenstein made drawings of the entire film—every picture, every shot, every sequence.

Eisenstein filmed the drinking orgy of the hangmen Oprichniki as a pattern of red-gold-black-blue. The gold of their shirts slowly turn to red as the murder plans develop. Then red is swallowed up by black when the executioners don black robes over their red atlas shirts. This color dramatization intensifies this frightening orgy, which is followed by a murder.

On September 4 1946, the Central Committee resolved to ban "Ivan the Terrible," Part Two: “Sergei Eisenstein has revealed his ignorance in his portrayal of historical facts, by representing the progressive army of Ivan the Terrible's Oprichniki as a gang of degenerates akin to the American Ku-Klux-Klan; and Ivan the Terrible, a strong-willed man of character, as a man of weak will and character, not unlike Hamlet."

The 'producer' in the Kremlin rewarded Eisenstein with the Stalin Prize for Part One and banned Part Two. Eisenstein had a heart attack. When he recovered, Stalin discussed with him various changes: Ivan should be more ruthless in eradicating his enemies; Eisenstein was too attracted to shadows; the film was too mystical; the director distracted the audience with Ivan’s beard. Eisenstein could re-shoot the film. But he died some months after the conversation in the Kremlin without changing anything. He remained true to his art, not to his patron.

Death
On 10 February 1948, Eisenstein wrote a letter. As he was writing, he suffered a heart attack. He still managed to scribble: "At this moment I am having a heart attack. Here, the trace in my handwriting." He died towards morning. His brain was given to his friend the neurologists Alexander Luria for research purposes. On Friday, the 13th, Eisenstein was laid out in the House of Film until 13:00, then buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery. Eisenstein was very superstitious; the number fits perfectly.
Eisensteins Universum
Credits: Story

The Russian State Archive for Literature and Art, Moscow, Russia; Museum for Literature and Music, Riga, Latvia; Alexander Bakhrushin State Theater Museum, Moscow, Russia; The Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, Krasnogorsk, Russia

Curators: Oksana Bulgakowa & Dietmar Hochmuth

Sources for quotation:
Sergei Eisenstein. The Film of the Masses. Translation by Richard Abraham of ‘Massenkino’, "Die Weltbühne" 1927, No. 49; Eisenstein. Selected Writing. Volume 1. Edited and translated by Richard Taylor. London: BFI 1988; Sergei Eisenstein. Beyond the Stars: The Memoirs. Edited by Richard Taylor, translated by William Powell. London: BFI 1995; Oksana Bulgakowa. Sergei Eisenstein A Biography. Translated by Ann Dwyer. Berlin: PotemkinPress 2000; Sergei Eisenstein. Disney. Edited by Oksana Bulgakowa and Dietmar Hochmuth, translated by Dustin Condren. Berlin: PotemkinPress 2012.

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