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Ivan the Terrible, Part 2 The Boyar’s Plot

(Russian 1958 c 86')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein, Czar Ivan IV returns to Moscow and confronts the boyars who are trying to overthrow his power.
      In 1564 Czar Ivan IV (Nikolai Cherkasov) formed his special bodyguard and withdrew to Alexandrov. The people in a long procession had asked him to return to Moscow. Prince Andrei Kurbsky (Mikhail Nazvanov) had surrendered his armies to Poland, and he kneels and hands his sword to King Sigismund (Pavel Massalsky). Kurbsky predicts a revolt by the boyars against the Czar. Sigismund says that Poland and Lithuania are on the outskirsts of Europe to protect them from Russia. He does not want a strong king in Russia, and he will support the boyars. Europeans will make the Russians serve the West. A messenger announces that Czar Ivan is going back to Moscow, and Sigismund retires. Kurbsky kicks the messenger.
      Men on horses arrive in Moscow, and Ivan enters his palace and calls those there traitors because they wanted to govern the land themselves. He says he will give them land and keep the widow’s portion. Ivan says he will guard the Russian frontiers and stamp out treason. He does not trust the boyars, and he will turn to the “aparts.” A priest reprimands Ivan, who takes him aside. Ivan calls his friend Kolychev, but he says he is now Philip the monk (Andrei Abrikosov) and is carrying out the will of God.
      Ivan recalls when he was a boy (Erik Pyryev). His mother Elena Glinskaya (Ada Vojtsik) tells him she has been poisoned.
      Czar Ivan realizes that is how he became an orphan, and the boyars handed over his territory to foreign enslavement.
      Young Ivan enters the court as Grand Duke of Moscow and sits on a throne. An advisor says they have agreed to pay duties to the Germans of the Hanseatic League for goods from the Baltic. An old man says that Ivan has made a treaty with the Livonian Knights. The other advisor contends that that was the boyars’ decision, and they argue over which group the Grand Duke should pay. Ivan says they will pay no one because those lands are the inheritance of Moscow. Ivan wants to use force, and they laugh at him. One of them lays on the bed, and Ivan tells him to get off his mother’s bed. The advisor says his mother was a bitch, and no one knows who his father was. Ivan says he will reign alone without the boyars.
      Czar Ivan says he has a royal guard but no close friends to confide in. Anastasia and Kurbsky were his closest friends. He is not afraid of trouble-makers. Philip advises him to rely on the boyars. Ivan says he will rule alone. Ivan holds on to Philip’s cloak and offers to make him Metropolitan Bishop of Moscow. Philip asks if he will be able to plead for the innocent accused. Ivan says he never accuses the innocent but agrees. They kiss, and Philip goes out. His guard Malyuta Skuratov (Mikhail Zharov) asks him why he turns to a monk. He knows strong men he can trust. Ivan says he wants to carry out the will of God. Malyuta says the  Czar must keep his word which must be respected. Malyuta suggests that he will take the Czar’s sins on his shoulders and give his soul. Ivan kisses him and sends him off to outstrip the priest. Malyuta says he will contact the Kolychevs and goes out. Ivan looks up and asks by what right he judges. He hears a woman cry and runs to his bed. He asks to avoid the cup, and young Pyotr Volynets (Vladimir Balashov) helps him realize that the cup Anastasia drank from was poisoned. Ivan gave it to her with his hands and remembers that he got it from his aunt Efrosinia. He warns Pyotr to tell no one. Malyuta has three boyars brought in and accuses them of submitting to the Polish king. They are condemned for treason. Malyuta uses his sword to cut off a head. Ivan prays.
      At the funeral the Archbishop orders Philip to bring the Czar to heel. Efrosinia Staritskaya (Serafina Birman) comes in grieving and demands that the Czar be humbled. Philip says he will take up the sword but not for the members of his Kolychev family who were slain. He is now a prince of the church and will crush the Czar.
      In church Efrosinia tells a child a Biblical story from Babylon. People sing, and actors perform a religious scene about obedience to the heavenly czar. Clowns make fun of those who disobeyed the heavenly czar. They stoke a fire under the three martyrs. Ivan comes in laughing dressed as a monk. He tells the Basmanovs to keep their place. He tells Fyodor Basmonov (Mikhail Kuznetsov) to keep quiet. The martyrs chant about a “lawless czar” and ask why they are being burned. The terrestrial lord is being humbled. Philip accuses Ivan of crimes, and Ivan warns him of his anger. Philip says an avenging angel will come. He asks Ivan to dissolve the Aparts before it is too late. Ivan tells him to be silent. Vladimir Andreyevich Staritsky (Pavel Kadochnikov) laughs, and Ivan stares at him. He says Efrosinia is to blame. Ivan says he will be what they call him—terrible.
      Efrosinia reports to boyars that Philip has been arrested and will be condemned. She says the only solution is to kill the Czar. Vladimir asks who will do it. The Archbishop says it is an elevated mission, and he consecrates Pyotr Volynets for this with a religious ceremony. Efrosinia says they must save Philip. The Archbishop says it is up to the judges, and he is head of the tribunal. He says they need a saint to challenge the Czar. The Archbishop goes out, and Vladmir asks his mother Efrosinia why she is always trying to make him a leader. He puts his head on her lap, and she sings to him. She says he will be a czar, and he screams. He is afraid of blood, and she says that is Pyotr’s job. Pyotr comes in and sits down. Vladimir fears he will be haunted by remorse. She says that when he is czar, he can punish the regicide. Vladimir falls on the floor. Efrosinia tries to encourage him. A door opens slowly, and Malyuta comes in and bows to them, giving them wine from the Czar and his invitation to join his table. She says Vladimir will accompany Pyotr to the banquet, and they leave. Efrosinia says her cause prospers and uncovers the cup.
      In a color sequence boyars dance and perform for Ivan who sits on his throne. Valdimir appears to be drunk, and Ivan gives him more wine. Basmanov complains that Ivan is associating with the Staritskayas. Ivan says they are his relations, and he calls Basmanovs his slaves. Basmanov refuses to fraternize with the boyars. They sing and dance. Vladimir says that Ivan has friends, and Ivan asks him to prove it. The song is about a fire in the castle and striking with axes. They see the Archbishop’s men there. Pyotr goes out. Vladimir tells Ivan that some people want him out of the way, and he refers to plots that would make him czar. He does not want to be czar, but his mother insists. Ivan stands up and orders his regalia. Men bring in a throne and a red carpet. He leads Vladimir to the chair, and they put royal garments on him. Ivan puts the crown on his head and kneels before him. The others kneel and bow also. Vladimir smiles, and Ivan calls him a lackey of the Poles. Ivan says the farce is over. He suggests they pray to God. Monks enter chanting. Ivan asks Vladimir to lead them to the church. Vladimir takes a candle and staggers forward. He looks in the small door and stops. Ivan says a czar does not hesitate, and they bow again.
      In black-and-white Vladimir goes on, followed by the monks to the sanctuary. Pyotr watches and then runs up behind Vladimir and stabs him in the back. Efrosinia comes in and proclaims that Ivan is no more. She puts her foot on the body and says the boyar Vladimir will be czar. Then she discovers that Vladimir has been killed and screams. Pyotr is held by two men, and Ivan mocks him for killing a fool rather than the czar. Ivan gives thanks. Pyotr walks away as Ivan turns to Efrosinia who sits on the floor singing. The body of Vladimir is dragged away. The crown is taken out of her hands, and the monks walk by her. Ivan leads them to the altar and prays as they chant. Ivan prays for Russia.
      In color Ivan speaks from his throne that a Czar must assess mercy for the good and cruelty for the wicked. He announces they have defeated their enemies, and the sword of justice will be used against those who oppose the greatness of Russia which they will protect.

    This historical drama was made in 1946, but Stalin’s censors would not allow it to be released until the era of Krushchev in 1958. Ivan is able to escape his many enemies with his strong will, piety, and cleverness.

Copyright © 2017 by Sanderson Beck

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