Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Stalinist Art

Looking at Eisenstein's script for Ivan the Terrible III. Great opera, certainly. But, like I and II, defending, hymning, the indefensible. "He shines transcendentally through all the blood he spills... He soars like God above a sea of blood; out of this blood he is founding a new cause;he is creating the Russian state."
As Ivan accuses his crony the oprichnik Basmanov of corruption, and then orders Basmanov's son to kill him, and on the son reentering the hall sees in his eye that Basmanov has corrupted him and orders him killed too...
Eisenstein must have thought, particularly after he'd got away with II, that this was the sort of thing Stalin wanted to hear; but no, he didn't want to be told that his atrocious cruelty was justified, he wanted to be told that he was a kindly old uncle and that all of these stories about seas of blood were libels. So we never got III, which is a tragedy.
Still, if anyone is worrying about antisemitism in Wagner's Ring, there's a much worse moral crux involved in liking and admiring Ivan. It's as if Wagner had made an oratorio out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Which, incidentally, badly needs a revamp; the existing prints/videos/DVD's are really crappy.

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