Sergei Eisenstein

Biography of Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Filmmaker

The director and theorist of Soviet cinema and theater, Sergei Mikhailovich Eizenshtein, was born in Riga, Latvia on January 22, 1898. He was the son of the architect Mikhail Osipovich Eisenstein and Julia Ivanovna Konetskaya. He was raised in a middle class family and Orthodox Christian, however, the filmmaker became an atheist.

Sergei pioneered the use of montage technique in film, both in theory and in practice, developing his own innovative technique, which later became the inspiration for filmmakers, and even represented a great influence on some Hollywood directors.

He is recognized as a film director, but he was also an inventor, screenwriter, teacher, film editor and director of photography. With a PhD in Art History.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Sergei studied engineering and architecture at the Petrograd Institute of Civil Engineering. Later, he left school to join the popular militias of the Bolshevik Revolution. In The Red Army, his first contact with the theater took place, since he carried out work as responsible for the sets and with his role as interpreter and director of small theatrical shows presented to the troops. His experience as a director in the military and in the Workers Theater, motivated him to start his studies in theater directing at the state school.

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Sergei’s theater career culminated when he was 25 years old, giving way to his development in a new medium, the cinema, an activity with which he obtained great international prestige.

His narrative was oriented to the social aspect and, for his films, he used people taken from society, they were not professionals with some kind of preparation in the dramatic field. With his works he wanted to convey a political message, based on participation, struggle and organization, his thought was: “As you wish, I want” and his ideals were communist, which caused him conflicts with government officials, since Stalin he considered it very controversial.

The works of Sergei Eisenstein

His work was based on a conception of dramatic art, based on the juxtaposition of images with a strong emotional content.

The filming of Glúmov’s Diary, a small short film in 1923, it was his first film presentation. Then, in 1924, showing great interest in his new medium, he shot La Huelga, his first feature film. In his opinion, it was not a great success, since it did not generate the expected emotions in the audience. However, a year later, in 1925, he had his first big hit, The Battleship Potemkin. This silent film has been considered one of the best of all time and is the one that made the famous director known worldwide. It is the first great masterpiece of Soviet cinema and deals with the mutiny that occurred on the battleship Potemkin in 1905, where the ship’s crew rebelled against the officers of the Tsarist army.

Later he made another of his most notable works, the great film October, based on the important work of John reed “The ten days that shook the world.” On this occasion, he recreated the events of the Russian October Revolution in 1917.

His next work is La línea general (1929), also known as “the old and the new”, where the theme is agrarian reform. In this film the protagonist is Maria Lapkina, A heroine.

Other of Sergei’s well-known works are: Long live Mexico! (unfinished), The meadow of Bezhin (unfinished), Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible (1943-1945), Ivan the Terrible, second part: the conspiracy of the Boyars, Ivan the Terrible, third part, Sentimental Romance.

Sergei Eisenstein, in addition he was an extraordinary theorist and, among his works, the following stand out: the Theory and cinematographic technique, Reflections of a filmmaker, The way in the cinema and The cinematographic realization, among many other articles and essays.

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His time in the United States and Mexico

The famous Soviet filmmaker, achieved great popularity with his films and was praised by critics worldwide. However, in the Soviet film community it was censored. This was one of the reasons that led him to sign a contract with the Paramount and moved to the United States. In New York they received him like a genius, and he had the opportunity to give some lectures at the Columbia and Harvard Universities. In his wake, his film The General Line also premiered in a New York Art and Essay cinema.

His communist ideas once again influenced his work, causing concern in the directors of Paramount Pictures. He was pressured to remove his beard and stop wearing the typical communist cap.

Finally, he did not manage to carry out any project in the United States and, then, he moved to Mexico, where upon his arrival he was imprisoned. But a friend of his, of Spanish origin, intervened in such a way that Sergei was named guest of honor. There he tried to make the film ¡Que viva México !, but he did not finish it. He only managed to shoot 60,000 m of film. However, from the filmed parts, several films were made.

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His return to the Soviet Union

His experience as a filmmaker outside of his country was not very successful, so he decided to return to the Soviet Union, depressed and disappointed. Upon his return, he encountered the same problems and political difficulties to develop work according to his socialist realist ideology. The next example of this is the censorship of the filming of Bezhin’s Meadow. This Soviet film from 1937 is famous for having been suppressed and its destruction is presumed before it is finished. Despite constant political attacks, Sergei shot his first sound film, Alexander Nevski, in 1938, with music by Sergei Prokofiev. With this film he won the Stalin Prize.

Of his Ivan the Terrible trilogy, he only managed to shoot the first part, once again, due to the censorship of the Stalin government.

The February 11, 1948, Eisenstein suffered a terrible hemorrhage from a heart attack, and died at 50 years of age in Moscow, USSR.

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