BU Film School

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II

Screenplay info
Written by: Sergei Eisenstein
Film info: Part I, Part II

Synopsis, Part I
In the prologue, Ivan is age 8. His mother, the Princess Helena Glinsky, has been poisoned and dies. Her lover, Telepnev-Obolensky, is ordered to be imprisoned by Boyar Andrew Shuisky.

Five years later, Ivan is 13, a boy Prince of Muscovy. The court is receiving representatives from the Hanseatic League and Livonia. Ivan announces that they'll sign an agreement with the Hanseatic League (which the council had already decided on). Shuisky contradicts, says they'll sign with Livonia. Shuisky and Boyar Byelsky argue, Shuisky persists in speaking on prince's behalf. Ivan's legs don't reach the floor.

Ivan gets undressed in bedroom by nurse and maids, listening to nurse sing, "Ocean-sea, Azure sea, Azure sea, Glorious sea". Shuisky and Byelsky continue to argue. Ivan breaks in, says they'll pay tribute to no one, and take their lands back. Everyone laughs, Shuisky says you and which army? He puts his legs on mother's sofa, Ivan orders them off, Shuisky says Ivan's a bastard, makes to strike. Ivan orders Shuisky's arrest, says he'll rule without the boyars.

Four years later, Ivan is 17. He is getting crowned as Tsar. The boyars disapprove, Princess Euphrosyne Staritskya and Vladimir particularly. Foreigners are indignant. Ivan promotes an united realm, also crowns himself Tsar of those lands "temporarily" in other countries' control. He will reign alone.

At ceremony, Ivan is flanked by Prince Andrew Kurbsky and Boyar Fyodor Kolychev. Livonian ambassador observes Kurbsky's adoring look at Ivan, then his sullen look as he watches Anastasia.

Two parallel scenes: boyars stirring up unrest at Headfall Ring, Ivan's wedding to Anastasia. Staritskys set bells ringing, get mob going to Ivan's apartments. Kolychev, uneasy, asks leave to retire to monastery; Ivan appoints him abbot. Ivan says he will establish an army, with funds from those who don't serve among the boyars, and income from clergy. (This scene introduces Gregory, aka Malyuta.)

Mob breaks into Ivan's apartments. Ivan makes a speech, sways them to his side. Kazan sends representatives to say they're breaking off relations. Ivan retorts with declaration of war, appoints Kurbsky to head forces.

Kurbsky takes captives, strings them up, they're shot by Kazan arrows. Ivan confronts him, Kurbsky takes exception and loses it, then covers up by saying he was protecting Ivan from an arrow. Introduction of Alexey and Fyodor Basmanov. Kazan is blown up.

Ivan is sick. Euphrosyne makes overture to Kurbsky. Livonian Ambassador makes overture to Kurbsky. The boyars refuse to kiss the cross to Ivan's son Dmitry (who we never see again). Euphrosyne says they must kiss the cross to Vladimir. Ivan recovers enough to emerge from room, assign Kurbsky to lead Russian forces to the west, Alexey Basmanov to guard southern borders.

Boyars plot to kill Anastasia. Ivan smashes silver models with Swedish and Livonian arms. Anastasia is sick. Ivan receives news that Kurbsky has been beaten. Euphrosyne gives poison in cup to Ivan, who gives it to Anastasia. She dies.

Kurbsky defects to Livonia (Poles), swears homage to Sigismund, asserts that things are ripe for revolt. Funeral, monk reads for Anastasia. Ivan questions himself, but reasserts that tsar is not finished yet. Orders summoning of Kolychev, but Basmanov says Tsar should surround himself with new people, offers his son for service.

Ivan abdicates, leaves Moscow. Forms Tsar's Men, who forswear family for Tsar. Pilgrimage from Moscow, including Pimen and boyars, ask for Ivan to return.

Synopsis, Part II

Ivan names boyars Land's Men ... in essence, takes their lands, then installs them as managers. Names Tsar's Men apart. Philip (formerly Kolychev) condemns overthrow of customs. Ivan asks for Philip's support, friendship; Philip grants in return for ability to intercede, plead on boyars' behalf. Malyuta, distrustful, confronts Ivan, says must strike boyars before Philip can intercede. Malyuta goes off to get boyars. Fedka Basmanov helps Ivan figure out poison plot. Malyuta kills three of Kolychev's kin, Eustace (Ivan's confessor) watches dismayed. More boyars attacked. Fedka takes girl's earrings, but father reprimands him (no plundering), then takes them himself.

Boyars plead case to Philip. Philip at first reluctant, but then hears about killings, and vows to crush Tsar. Fiery Furnace Play -- earthly Tsar cast down by heavenly Tsar. "Terrible I'll be!" Philip arrested. Boyars decide only one more way -- kill Tsar. They send Pimen's novice, Peter.

Vladimir -- why are you pushing me to power? Ivan sends cup of wine to Euphrosyne, invites Vladimir to feast. Euphrosyne realizes it's empty, poisoned cup. Ivan gets Vlad drunk at feast; Vlad blurts out plot, that he'll become ruler. Ivan has Vlad dressed in royal robes, summons all to prayer. Vlad leads procession in royal garb. They enter church. Peter kills Vlad. Euphrosyne arrives, triumphant, but then realizes it's her son who's dead. Peter caught, but released by Tsar. Euphrosyne arrested.

Kurbsky in Poland, having scribe write to Ivan. First angry, envious -- why not me? At news that messenger's arrived, wonder if he's forgiven? Then angry again at messenger for being tardy. News that he's to proceed to Lithuania, all ready for insurrection. He sends Henryk Staden, German knight, to spy on Ivan.

Peter talks to Tsar, tells him Kurbsky, Pimen and Philip were behind plot, and that Pskur and Novgorod plan to break from Muscovy and join Livonian State. Eustace says to show no mercy. Ivan orders a secret march on Novgorod, orders Eustace to remain in Muscovy (suspicious).

Russians march on Novgorod, kill messenger from Muscovy. Pimen et al. arrested, killed. Monk intones mercy for the deceased, Ivan justifies deed (to protect Russia), asks God for answer, receives none. Father Basmanov takes loot, Staden says will trade, Fyodor notices, enraged. Ivan confesses names of slain to Eustace, then realizes Eustace's true identity. Eustace confesses that Livonian ambassador has bought outposts. Ivan has message sent to Kurbsky with Eustace's signature.

Jester from Sigismund's court tries to determine if Elizabeth will support Russia. She gives ambiguous answer.

Series of attacks on outposts, boyars captured. Tsar uncovers A. Basmanov as looter, orders son to execute him. Basmanov says he stole gold for Basmanovs, has son forswear Tsar's Men oath before being killed. Tsar guesses pact, orders Fedka's arrest. Fedka rushes at Tsar, but Staden kills him. Malyuta grabs Staden, but Livonians arrive, falling into Tsar's trap.

Kurbsky flees, flees again to Oldenbock's castle. Russians attack it, Kurbsky fleets yet again, Oldenbock blows it up. Malyuta mortally wounded, Peter holds up pennant. Ivan takes Malyuta to sea, where he dies. Ivan wades into sea to receive its homage.

My notes
-- Russia must be protected from enemies within (greedy boyars, clergy) and without (Poland, etc.)
-- heavy is the burden of a tsar
-- conflict: threats to tsar's rule, Russia's lands
-- shot directions are spare ("From above, the harsh voice -- Andrew Shuisky's").
-- lot of transitions made with sound
-- lots of crowd scenes, lots of war scenes. use of repetition/similarity in capture of boyars at outposts (near end of Part II).
-- recurring songs: provide continuity, comment on action (Azure Sea, Ginger Bess)
-- like Paradise Lost, a straightforward narrative

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