Ivan the Terrible, Parts One and Two
Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein and M. Filimonova
Year Released: 1944
Unfinished trilogy based on the life of one of Russia's most infamous rulers - part one has Ivan looking a little like Jesus, part two has him looking like a mad scientist. Eisenstein's casting must have consisted of picking people who are most capable of staring off-screen - while in close-up - and looking possessed, because that very setup makes up a sizeable portion of the movie - the effect is both overbearingly theatrical and deeply unsettling. The characters come across less as people and more like ghosts who drift in and out of frame, staring at things that scare the living hell out of them, and never become what I would think of as 'multi-dimensional.' I can't imagine this genuinely affecting a large portion of its potential audience today, and most modern viewers will probably follow the crowd and say it's a glorious achievement (mostly out of intimidation): the movie carries with it its very own aura and elaborate history (Stalin's banning part II, the fact that it is 'incomplete' and that film fans have a way of taking incomplete films and elevating them to mythic proportions - also see Que Viva Mexico and Greed and a lot of Welles' unfinished or cobbled together fragments). I can see why people think Alexander Nevsky and Battleship Potemkin are great - this I'm less sure.