Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Sergei Eisenstein's IVAN THE TERRIBLE, a Most Relevant Film in the Age of Deepocracy against Nationalism — Shadow Plays of the Deep State, the Game of Empires, and Ruler as Tyrant and Savior

In Sergei Eisenstein’s IVAN THE TERRIBLE the characters are less people than architectural motifs with predetermined roles set in stone. Only their eyes — limpid pools with slightest room to maneuver — animate with free will. Consciousness remains suspended between dark depths and preposterous pageantry. In one instance, a man ‘lifts’ his eyelid with his finger. It's as if it takes an act of will to glimpse truth in a world heavily weighed down by power as burden or tyranny.

There is also the metaphor of cavernous spaces to convey the secretive and labyrinthine dimensions of ambition and paranoia. Shadow-lurking byzantine ceilings arch over characters whose body movements complement the distorted dementia of Slavo-gothicism.
We watch figures trying to burrow into themselves; one man shrivels into his collar like a turtle withdrawing into his shell; another recoils into hidden space like an armadillo or porcupine. It’s a veiled world teeming with vampiric forces vying for power but scurrying into darkness like mice or roaches at first sign of light. Just about every component of the film is an exaggerated symbol or twisted metaphor of souls tormented by power as cure and/or poison.
IVAN THE TERRIBLE suggests at the illusory way of power through the motif of the garb. Ivan looks magnificent in his royal outfit but the sheer ostentation also betrays insecurity and vulnerability. It’s as if he must own and control the symbols of legitimacy to just barely hold onto power in a world of so much treachery and betrayal. (Stalin understood that, without the Cult of Personality that made him an object of worship to countless comrades, he could be outmaneuvered and purged, as he and his henchmen had done to many revolutionaries who had no protective shield of symbolism. In the end, most in the inner-circle of power feared conspiring against Stalin because it’s much more difficult to destroy a god than a man. Thus, the Cult of Personality that made Stalin so powerful was really the product of his extreme insecurity.) And yet, over-dressed in magnificence, Ivan or Ivan’s trappings of power become an all-too-visible target for his resentful and envious enemies who want the 'blings' for themselves. The motif of the garb also illustrates the fluidity of power, the difficulty with which it is won and the ease with which it can be lost. For example, Kazhaki ambassadors come dressed in fabulous silk garb only to be denuded and strung up to dry. In the final scene of IVAN THE TERRIBLE PART 2, Ivan's henchmen don priestly robes while an idiot pretender-to-the-throne is goaded into wearing Ivan’s cloak.

Ivan is a shadowy figure, indeed more like a shadow of a shadow, both in the personal and historical sense. He contends with forces all around him to impose his proto-national vision in an unruly and sprawling world where downfall & disgrace are never more than few steps away from power & glory. He has to maintain his balance amidst ceaseless tremors emanating from both within and without. He cannot just settle down to being a good leader. The bulk of his energies must be committed to the bare-bone-struggle of just keeping the power. Internal intrigues, tensions by region & class, and external threats abound everywhere. The imperial nature of nascent Russia is both its strength and weakness. It is vast and domineering but also under constant threat from competing powers. It is always on war-footing whether it wants to be or not. If Russia is not pressing against others, others are pressing against Russia, eager to carve off its territories and enslave its peoples. Against such seemingly insurmountable odds, the only way to keep the power is to appear and act godlike. The concept of Divine Right of King is insufficient as practice in Ivan's universe. The ruler himself must appear divine, a god-emperor among men. Thus, at times, Ivan the Terrible is more like a Pharaoh or a Mongol Khan than a European king. He isn’t merely blessed by but has the aura of divinity. He must struggle to live and rule as long as possible because Russia cannot survive without a ruler without the will of a god.
Like the mystique of the late lord of KAGEMUSHA, Ivan’s power is a complicated interplay of myths and symbols that amplify yet also threaten to annul one another. Shadows can loom large, making the smallest object seem most ominous. But all said and done, a shadow without substance loses its mystique in the blink of an eye, as with the shadow in THE THIRD MAN that turns to be of a balloon-peddler. In KAGEMUSHA, the Takeda clan maintains its aura of invincibility through a complicated shadow play that fools rival clans into believing that the great lord full of wisdom and experience is still alive.
KAGEMUSHA - The double(thief) stumbles upon the dead lord whose persona is kept alive by the clan.
The deceptively ominous shadow in THE THIRD MAN
Ivan is too larger-than-life to entertain close friendships yet also all-too-human to play god at all times. He is a great flame that can engulf millions of lives but also a flicker that longs for quietude and intimacy. A great fire has the danger of burning out, and a candlelight can easily be snuffed out. Whether burning brightly or softly, Ivan cannot escape from the logic of power. He and the land are one, as is the case with King Arthur in EXCALIBUR who, at one point, says: "I was not born to live a man's life, but to be the stuff of future memory."
Shadows serve as a striking metaphor for power because the size of a shadow has less to do with the actual size of an object than in its relation to the light source. Then and now, so much of politics is a game of shadows, making small things loom large, making big things seem small. In nature, some animals puff themselves up to look bigger than they actually are. In the US, the shadow-play of the media have convinced so many Americans that homos constitute 25% of the population when they are only 2.5%, if that. The significance of whiteness, so crucial to the creation and development of America, has been diminished by the Jewish favoritism of themselves, blacks, homos, anti-white-male feminists, and ‘immigrants’ who are said to be ‘more American than Americans’.

Of course, cinema too developed essentially as a shadow play. The silver screen is really a shadow-projection of images on strips of celluloid. For so many people, cinema defined hyper-reality in terms of Narratives, Heroes and Villains, Truth and Falsehood. In movies, small figures can loom deceptively large and dwarf larger characters, and few directors exploited this dynamics as well as Eisenstein, especially in IVAN THE TERRIBLE, a work that conveys the illusory versus the actual terms of power. A man without substance cannot gain power by illusions alone, and yet, even the man of substance cannot maintain power without control of illusions. (One might argue George W. Bush and Obama became the ‘most powerful man in the world’ via manipulations of illusions, but they were never anything more than puppets in a shadow-play controlled by Jews and the Deep State.) After all, what were the histories of civilizations but tales of mortals playing gods, never a stable condition — just go ask Hussein and Gaddafi — but a necessary one to pull peoples and territories together into a unity of shared identity and purpose. The final image of part one of IVAN THE TERRIBLE almost literally turns the eponymous ruler into a silhouette over his dominion. Russia is stamped with his will and personality.

Ivan’s sharp-tipped goatee symbolizes power but also fragility. It is knife and feather. At times, his head tilts back, gazing upwards as if summoning consent from the gods. Yet, it also suggests resignation, an image of crucified Christ beseeching His Father, ‘Why?’ Why was Ivan chosen to carry the cross for his people, an unworthy rabble given to dissension and corruption?
It also illuminates an aspect of Ivan's life since his tormented childhood, emotionally torn and twisted by warped allegiances to ostensible allies who could be mortal enemies. It's as if Ivan was born feet first followed by painful hours before the head, traumatized and deformed, finally emerged as an act of dark miracle. Indeed, IVAN THE TERRIBLE is about the birthing(and rebirthing) pains of political consciousness, how a boy grows into a man who becomes a czar who must rule as a god. It is significant that Ivan's mother was murdered by intrigue when he was a child, scarring Ivan for life as a bitter soul longing to regain lost security(like Charles Foster Kane for ‘Rosebud’ that reminds him of mother and home), later made worse the death of his wife. It is as if Ivan is searching for that one person -- companion, friend, or confidante -- who could fill the void left by the death of his mother. It is this sentimentality that explains Ivan's initial trustfulness of those who feign loyalty and devotion.
Then, there's the motif of chess, a game where the various pieces are assigned different degrees of power. As in chess, politics is a game with players in positions of varying levels of advantage. But in the end, it all comes down to how the game is played. A powerful piece played stupidly can lose to a weaker piece played brilliantly. Latent advantage isn’t enough. A queen in chess is latently more powerful than bishop, knight, or rook but can actively lose to one or all of them acting in concert if ‘she’ is played rashly. Also, one can hold a powerful position without having agency or autonomy. Most Western leaders hold powerful positions but lack the agency of someone like Viktor Orban of Hungary who is under tremendous pressure from sorcerer Soros and his chess-piece minion-leaders. Their 'power' is decided by EOJ(the Empire of Judea) that moves them across the global chessboard.
Jews understand the game all too well. Many high positions are still filled by gentiles in the US and EU, but they are like chess pieces with latent power only. They are activated into play only when Jews decide to ‘move’ them as Judea has hegemony over Western elites who’ve been bought, blackmailed, or squeezed at every turn.
Likewise, Ivan understands that it’s not enough to be Czar. Latently, it is the strongest position to have, but its ultimate power depends on how it is played in a never-ending game of intrigues, conspiracies, and challenges. It’s like a hare is latently faster than a tortoise, but a lazy hare that rests on its laurel will lose to an active tortoise that remains in the race. One thing Russians fail to understand is that Jews are obsessive players in the game of power, and they play only to win. This is why Russians must never lower their guard or hope for some kind of compromise with Jews. Jews want it all and only on their terms. As the creators of the God who insisted He is the only God and all other gods are false, Jews are hyper-egomaniacs who believe their ethno-ego or ‘ethnogo’ is the only one that matters. All other ‘ethnogos’ must submit to the obsessive prophetic insistence of Jews. Such is the natural personality of Jews, and this is why Russians find themselves flabbergasted time and time again. Russians are like a bear that, once satiated with enough, is content to just take it easy and get along. In contrast, Jews have the ‘radical will’ that persistently and incessantly gnaws into other realms to take over. Not for nothing have Jews been so often compared with rodents and weasels. So, just when Russians thought they might have a nice Winter Olympics in 2014, the Jewish globalist media waged full propaganda war. And vicious Jews in the US State Department pulled off a coup in Ukraine. And just when the war is winding down in Syria, nasty Zionists in Israel and the US keep provoking and instigating new problems to prolong the war as long as possible. This is why Stalin didn’t trust Jews. He was adept at outmaneuvering them because he came from a part of the world famous for its thieves, crooks, and bandits. Anyway, when dealing with Jews, one must never fall back on one’s latent advantage. One must always remain in Active Play mode. It’s like Vito Corleone is the most powerful mafia boss in NY, but Sollozzo and the Tataglias make a move against him because they believe he’s grown soft and mellow. One thing Michael understands is one must keep playing the game that never has an end. When Tom Hagen suggests in THE GODFATHER PART 2 that it’s no longer worth going after Hyman Roth, Michael disagrees and decides to play the game to the very end. Roth must die. In CARLITO’S WAY, Carlito spares Benny Blanco who never stopped playing the game. It turns out to be a fatal error. When you’re in the game, you must never drop your guard or go easy on your opponent. It’s like a boxer must keep fighting for the duration for the bout. Even a champion who drops his guard and falls back on his latent advantage as top dog can be knocked out by the opponent who is still intensely in the game. Just ask Mike Tyson who overestimated himself and underestimated Buster Douglas. The most important lesson about Jews is they will never stop playing the game of power until they have everything. And even when they have everything, as they do in the US, they still carry on in smite-the-enemy mode, which is why Jews still growl and gnash their teeth in their rabid and virulent War on Whites. It is in their nature to want to become the god-race over us all.

Perhaps the most iconic moment in IVAN THE TERRIBLE is at the end of Part One where Ivan assents to Muscovites' demand that he resume the imperial role of Russian Atlas. A deep focus shot has the closeup of Ivan's profile fill one-half of the screen while a column of men and women trailing into the distance fills the other half. Ivan appears at once godly and enslaved to history. But then, Atlas was both god and slave. He possessed immense power but had to carry the burden of the world on his shoulders at all times. In the final scene, we can’t help but sense Ivan's ambiguous relation to his people, i.e. he is way above them, perched on high like an eagle(or vulture), yet intimately bound to their destiny that will also decide his.

Sergei Eisenstein immediately entered the cinematic lexicon and pantheon through his experimentation with dialectical montage, a fast-cutting and juxtaposing of loaded images for the achievement of thematic synthesis. IVAN THE TERRIBLE didn’t dispense with montage, but Eisenstein managed to create something more remarkable(surely influenced by gothic expressionism of German cinema and perhaps even Citizen Kane, and, in turn, probably having a key influence on Stone's political shadow-play NIXON). Instead of head-to-head clash of ideologically charged tropes in films like BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and OCTOBER, the result in IVAN THE TERRIBLE is more oblique, elliptical, and elusive. It’s a world where so many forces prefer to hide and conspire in the shadows than settle accounts in a head-to-head clash and collision. The earlier films are closer in spirit to Flash Gordon, the brash hero who relishes open and honest combat. The mood of IVAN THE TERRIBLE’s is that of ‘orientalist’ Ming the Merciless or Darth Vader. It is about the hidden depths of power both in its political and psychological dimensions, and as such, it probably had an influence on Orson Welles’ OTHELLO.
Eisenstein created the impression of montage in IVAN THE TERRIBLE through means other than editing. For example, consider the CALIGARI-like angularity and jagged visual stratagems. The perspective of the camera is often at odds with(or in sharp contrast to) the poses or the gazes of lurking characters who creep in and out of frames like stalking predators or fearful prey. There is a sense of disjointedness, a world fractured and fragmented in body & soul, in need of an inspired savior who can fit together the pieces of the puzzle. In IVAN THE TERRIBLE, Eisenstein created the montage-effect not so much across frames but within the frame. Instead of the a-b-c & a-c-b connect-the-dots methodology of his earlier films(palpable with tension from the restless dynamic shuffling of images) that made him world-famous, the visual complexity of IVAN THE TERRIBLE achieves something like ideological cubism, what with so many obtuse contradictory tropes molded into a single image in which organic(and orgasmic) synthesis is denied. Unlike the early revolutionary movies where power transformed from tyranny into potency, the libido of history, IVAN THE TERRIBLE’s conception of power is haunted and venereal. It’s more like a game of poker than soccer or hockey. Power is so tainted and corrupting that it’s naive to hope for liberation from history. Rather, history will always be a sewer filled with pestilence and filth. Therefore, it takes a special kind of man to plunge into the dark depths — the ‘swamp’ as Donald Trump might call it — and soil his own body to fix things for the higher good. As in the Jesus myth, the central question is, "Can a man keep clean his soul even as he pollutes his body in the struggle against filth?" Jesus embraced the wretched of body but His soul remained pure. In politics, those who enter the game invariably become just as corrupt and dirty like everyone else(though there are exceptions like Ron Paul). But is it possible to come in contact with all the filth but still maintain one’s core integrity and honor? IVAN THE TERRIBLE presents a noble soul who contracts the leprosy and syphilis of power out of love for justice & the well-being of his subjects and ultimately manages to rise above the diseases that afflict him out of sheer will and the grace of history. Ivan is both sickly Amfortas who clings to the hope of salvation and Parsifal who goes on the quest for the Grail.

In part, IVAN THE TERRIBLE is a showcase of classic Russian chauvinism. It presents Russia as the repository of the vital qualities of man, both the primal/natural and noble/spiritual. In Part One, we see Russians as daring defenders of civilization against the barbaric Muslim-Asiatic Tartars. In Part Two, Ivan rallies his manly forces against the preciously effete Polish aristocrats in their cookie cutter palaces. Russians are shown as robust and virile in contrast to the decadent and preening Central Europeans.
Ivan himself embodies this Russian duality as a leader channeling both the boorish but forthright passion of the mob and the refined but devious treachery of the elites. It's a portrait of a man torn between royal refinement and rough reality summoning an awesome will to bridge the two realms. He desires respect and acceptance from the upper-crust, the better kind of people, but they remain disloyal & resentful, seeking Ivan’s destruction with virulence on par with the Rabbis who wanted Jesus punished and killed. (Likewise, no matter how much Putin or Trump tries to compromise and come to terms with ‘Western’ globalist elites and the Deep State controlled by Jews, he will never be accepted as a member because what he represents is anathema to the agenda of globalism.) The more Ivan comes to reflect on power, he decides upon the creation of a private army of loyal followers, but they are uncouth and vulgar, much like the samurai who serve the fallen Hidetora to their tragic end in Kurosawa's RAN. But in the end, they are the only people Ivan can trust. He is alone with the ‘people’. He once reached out for affection and respect among the elites, but his wife died and the aristocratic boyars merely played him for a fool.
The color dance sequence is Part Two is dazzling and vibrant but also sticks out like a sore thumb, not least because of the inferior color technology then in the Soviet Union. Yet, the scene serves as a deceptive counterpoint to all the dramatic buildup. Up til that moment, tensions had continued to mount, intrigues piling atop one another, treachery creeping through every crevice. The explosion of music and color as respite from the accumulating suspense despite the, as yet, lack of dramatic resolution creates a strangely surreal atmosphere where things aren't what they seem. If the dance had followed the resolution, it would have been celebratory, like the peasants singing and banging drums at the end of SEVEN SAMURAI. But as a pretense of carefree revelry when everyone knows intrigue and counter-intrigues are afoot, the dance number is actually a bait-and-switch than show-and-tell. The combination of merry laughter and mocking irony makes it all the more perverse, like the sing-and-rape scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the Inquisition number in Mel Brooks’ THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I.
The musical sequence also serves a similar function as the incoherent rush of images catalyzing right after Liv Ullmann steps on broken glass in PERSONA(Ingmar Bergman) or the opening dance number in MULHOLLAND DR(David Lynch). It's the false muse between light and darkness, between sense and nonsense. It's as if tensions have reached such a boiling point that some steam has to be let out of the pressure cooker lest it explode.
But inevitably, what then follows is the grim re-emergence of the plot leading to assassination and resolution. The stark contrast between the ruckus of the dance number and the nervous quietude of the assassination scene(back in b/w) makes for a jarring effect, surely intentionally anticlimactic. Likewise in THE GODFATHER, the killing of the heads of the five families seems even more profanely awesome because of its juxtaposition with the baptism of Connie’s baby.
The dance sequence also declares Ivan's final break with his former self that aspired to be someone he wasn't allowed to be. Like Guido at the end of Fellini's 8½, Ivan accepts his condition — endless intrigues, wars, and betrayals — as the circus of power, the way of doing business. He stops worrying and learns to love the power. He has given up hankering for respectability. He has accepted the dark side of power like a vampire has accepted the life of the dark.

The gargoyle-like acting styles in IVAN THE TERRIBLE range from hyperbolic to arch and stilted. Dramatically it grows wearying in moments because of the never-ending parade of iconographic poses and exaggerated gestures, at times almost inching into vaudeville territory, especially as lambasted by Sergei Prokofiev's memorable but circus-like score that seems at once to extol and mock the themes and characters.

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