Sergei Eisenstein born 23 January 1898 (d. 1948)
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was a revolutionary Soviet film director and film theorist noted in particular for his silent films Strike, Battleship Potemkin and Oktober. His work vastly influenced early film makers owing to his innovative use of and writings about montage.
Eisenstein was a pioneer in the use of montage, a specific use of film editing. He believed that editing could be used for more than just expounding a scene or moment, through a 'linkage' of related scenes. Eisenstein felt the 'collision' of shots could be used to manipulate the emotions of the audience and create film metaphors.
His many articles and books explain these methods in detail. He was one of the earliest theorists of the young film medium. His impact on film makers in the 1920s was enormous and his theories continue to be taught in film schools to this day.
In his initial films, 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 vision of Communism brought him into conflict with officials in the ruling regime of Joseph Stalin. Like a great many Bolshevik artists, Eisenstein envisioned the new society as one which would subsidise the artist totally, freeing them from the confines of bosses and budgets, thus leaving them absolutely free to create.
Eisenstein's popularity and influence in his own land waxed and waned with the success of his films and the passage of time. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) was acclaimed critically worldwide and popular in the Soviet Union. But it was mostly his international critical renown which enabled Eisenstein to direct The General Line (aka Old and New), and then October (aka Ten Days That Shook The World) as part of a grand 10th anniversary celebration of the October Revolution of 1917. The critics of the outside world praised them, but at home, Eisenstein's focus in these films on structural issues such as camera angles, crowd movements and montage, brought him - along with likeminded others - under fire within the Soviet film community forcing him to issue public articles of self-criticism and commitments to reform his cinematic visions to conform to socialist realism's increasingly specific doctrines.
Chafing under the constraints of Stalinism, Eisenstein accepted offers to work abroad, which led to unfulfilled projects in the United States and to the spectacular debacle of Que Viva Mexico!, which was never completed, taken over by the producers, and edited into three separate films.
Eisenstein returned to the Soviet Union in 1935, where he continued the spiral of falling out of and back into favour with the Stalinist regime. His remaining films - Bezhin Meadow ; Alexander Nevsky ; Ivan the Terrible, Part I ; Ivan the Terrible, Part II: The Boyars' Plot ; and the surviving fragment of Ivan the Terrible, Part III  - were marked with the tensions of the political turmoil in which Eisenstein was embroiled.
Eisenstein's personal life was also chaotic. He married twice in response to political pressure, but his marriages were never consummated. His unexpurgated diaries, published as Immortal Memories, are filled with accounts of his infatuations with many young men, including his assistant, Grigori Alexandrov.
Often his infatuations (as in the case of Alexandrov) were with young heterosexual men, whom he would educate and assist in their careers. His drawings, exhibited during the centenary of his birth, include many illustrations of homosexual activity.
Despite his difficulties with censorship and other problems, Eisenstein created a remarkable legacy. His films reveal his continued commitment to experimentation in form. Nevsky, his first sound film, contains spectacular scenes, most notably the Battle on the Ice, as well as the incomparably thrilling film score of Sergei Prokofiev.
Ivan the Terrible, an intensely Expressionistic study of political power and corruption, with immense sets, voluminous costumes, and amazingly hyperbolic lighting, represents a contrast to this earlier work. It was not dynamically edited, but relied on extended long takes, in which dialogue, sound effects, and music were crucial. Ivan the Terrible pointed to new operatic possibilities in motion pictures.
From Strike to Ivan, Eisenstein's career always excited controversy - much of his work was either destroyed or confiscated - but he remains one of the most important filmmakers in history, the exemplar of the true intellectual artist.
Eisenstein suffered a hemorrhage and died at the age of 50. An unconfirmed legend in film history states that Russian scientists preserved his brain and it supposedly was much larger than a normal human brain, which the scientists took as a sign of genius.
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