Nice Work, Eisenstein

Thank God for YouTube. Without it, how would we get such hilarious things as this?

This is supposed to be hilarious, right? Right? Because anyone who actually, you know, listens to the lyrics while watching jingo-tastic clips of U.S. soldiers blowing the shit out of Iraq who doesn’t bring a healthy sense of irony to the whole thing is gonna get a serious case of whiplash.

(For bonus points, leave a comment explaining why the title of this post is actually savagely witty and relevant to the subject, instead of a typo.)



May 17, 2006
10:18 am

He directed Aleksander Nevsky, a propaganda film warning against the German invaders (though opens with him wondering which is a bigger threat, the Yellow Horde of China or the rapacious West, a worldview still quite common in Russia)–then forced to do a production of the Valkyries in Moscow once the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed.

Jason Lefkowitz

May 17, 2006
10:23 am

We have a weiner!
(Oops, sorry, a _winner_).
You left out what may be the most enduring propaganda images Eisenstein ever crafted, though; the famous “Odessa Steps” sequence from “The Battleship Potemkin” (which was memorably ripped off sixty years later by Brian De Palma in “The Untouchables”).

Sandy Smith

May 18, 2006
1:20 am

Yeah, it was more the flip-flop of propaganda I was getting at.
Although in this case I can bet that the GIs involved actually were gung-ho and either didn’t know or didn’t care that AFY is not a completely supportive song. In fact, I heard a conservative attempting to bash a liberal with the movie the other day on talk radio–and the liberal took it! I was shocked. Both of them completely missed that it was not terribly supportive of either side.
However young 20-something high-school- or even college-educated males pumped up for combat are not always in the mood to grasp subtlety if they see it. In postmodern lingo, they impart their own meaning to the text.

Jason Lefkowitz

May 18, 2006
6:54 am

“Although in this case I can bet that the GIs involved actually were gung-ho and either didn’t know or didn’t care that AFY is not a completely supportive song.”
Probably they had no idea — my bet is that the creator of the video stitched together a bunch of pics taken in other contexts, and then just laid the audio over them.


May 18, 2006
9:38 am

Aleksander Nevsky is the movie where the russians defeat the evil German swastika wearing knights on the frozen lake, right?
Saw it on pbs once, it was awsome.
It was also mentioned in “Red Storm Rising” where I first heard about it.
You just can’t beat the russians when it comes to propaganda films (though Casablanca comes close)

Jason Lefkowitz

May 18, 2006
9:42 am

Yup, that’s Nevsky with the big frozen-lake battle scene:
“The film was requested of Eisenstein directly by Stalin who wanted a film that would warn the Soviet people of German aggression. The film contains many elements that reflect the then current global political situation. The helmets worn by the Teutonic soldiers look much like larger German soldier helmets from the period. Swastikas are also to be found decorating many of the Teutons. The film also shows Nevsky making peace with his old enemies the Mongols in order to face the knights, hinting at the necessity of making peace with the western powers to deal with Nazi Germany.
Unfortunately the film was released moments before Stalin agreed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact creating a Nazi-Soviet alliance. The film was suppressed and not shown in theaters. This changed dramatically in 1941 after the German attack on the Soviet Union and Stalin ordered the film to be shown in every Soviet cinema.”

Jason Lefkowitz

May 18, 2006
9:47 am

And if all this talk of Eisenstein has gotten anyone wanting to see his work, there’s a good 3-disc box set available from Criterion called “Eisenstein: The Sound Years” which includes Nevsky: