Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Alexander Nevsky (1938)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Alexander Nevsky (1938, Soviet Union) (aka Aleksandr Nevskiy)

In Sergei Eisenstein's and Dmitri Vasilev's dramatic, historical (and Russian propagandistic) war film at a time of rampant foreign invasions - it was Eisenstein's first sound film:

  • in the film's opening set in the year 1242 (following the invasion by the Mongols from the East), oppressive German Teutonic Knights - with the help of traitors - attacked a weakened Russia from the West and, in particular, invaded and destroyed the city of Pskov; the brutality of the German soldiers was illustrated by the murder of resistant citizens, and the enslavement of Russian women after their babies were grabbed and thrown into bonfires; the ritualistic deaths were presided over by the arrogant Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, a cold-hearted bishop named Hermann von Balk (Vladimir Yershov) who was a representative of the Roman Catholic Church
  • citizens of Novgorod - the last free and unconquered Russian city, called upon strong leadership represented by epic folk hero and warrior-saint Prince Alexander Nevsky (Nikolai Cherkasov) to help defend the sacred soil of Russia and protect them; Nevsky - who was already popular after having defeated the Swedes - responded by forming a rag-tag army of peasants to repel and attack the Germans
  • the film was most noted for its gripping, climactic half-hour long battle scene on the blindingly-white ice at frozen Lake Chudskoye in 1242 on the boundary between Novgorod and Pskov; the scene was accompanied by composer Sergei Prokofiev's superb score added in post-production
  • the conflict was between the invading barbaric Teutonic knights of the Holy Roman Empire (some of whom were on horseback, , armed with heavy steel weapons and wearing white capes and huge horned helmets - representing Hitler's fascist forces) and the patriotic Russian army (in darker uniforms) led by Prince Alexander Nevsky, wielding spears, hooks and axes
  • in the battle's finale known as "The Battle of the Ice," as the defeated Germans fled, they were swallowed up when the frozen ice on Lake Chudskoe started to crack and plunged them into the frigid water
Battle's Finale on the Thin Ice
  • following his victory, Alexander celebrated by parading into Pskov with captured German knights (although he pardoned and freed the foot-soldiers), and the vengeful peasants in a mob sought revenge against two traitors (by tearing them apart)
  • the heroic Nevsky delivered a closing speech with a threatening reminder against any other future aggressors: "Go and tell all in alien lands that Russia (Rus) lives! Let all come and be our guests. But he who comes to us sword in hand, by the sword shall perish! On that our Russian land will forever take its stand! HE WHO COMES TO US SWORD IN HAND BY THE SWORD SHALL PERISH. ON THAT OUR RUSSIAN LAND WILL FOREVER TAKE ITS STAND"

Assembling for Battle at Lake Chudskoye

Nevsky's Concluding Speech


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