Upclosed staff | Jan 22, 2018

Sergei Eisenstein: Google honors Soviet film director on his birthday.

Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (born Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein, 22 January 1898 – 11 February 1948) was a Soviet film director and film theorist.
He is best known for his films Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), and October (1928.) He also produced historical epic, Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).

Born to a middle-class family on 22 January 1898, in Riga, Latvia, Sergei moved with his mother to St. Petersburg, during the Russian Revolution of 1905. He was raised as an Orthodox Christian but became an atheist later in his life.

Growing up, Eisenstein was always interested in theatre and films. he began his theatre career in 1920, in Moscow, where he worked for Proletkult  - proletarskaya kultura,  an experimental Soviet artistic institution which arose in conjunction with the Russian Revolution of 1917. After producing plays entitled Gas Masks, Listen Moscow, and Wiseman, he started working as a designer for Vsevolod Meyerhold, a well-known Russian theatre director.


Shortly after in 1923, he began his career as a film theorist, by writing The Montage of Attractions for LEF.  The same year, he produced his first film, Glumov's Diary. His first full-length feature films, String (1924) and The Battleship Potemkin (1925,) were acclaimed critically worldwide. 

In 1928, he released another critically acclaimed film October (Ten Days That Shook The World) which revolved around the events of the October Revolution of 1917. The film, although appreciated worldwide, brought him criticism from the Soviet film industry, eventually forcing him to issue articles of self-criticism and commitments to align his artistic visions with the increasingly specific doctrines of socialist realism. Other directors including Vsevolod Pudovkin and Alexander Dovzhenko were also subjected to the same treatment.

After October, Sergei, with Grigori Aleksandrov and Eduard Tisse, left on a Europe tour. During the tour, he presented lectures on film-making in Berlin, Zürich, London, and Paris. In 1929, in Switzerland, he supervised an educational documentary about abortion, Frauennot - Frauenglüc.

Accumulating his laurels, he moved to Hollywood in 1930, along with Alexandrov and Tisse. His production in the U.S.,  a movie version of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, unfortunately, failed to impress Paramount studios and was shelved. In October 1930, by "mutual consent," Paramount and Eisenstein declared their contract null and void, and Eisenstein along with his team moved back to Moscow.

In November 1930, Eisenstein signed a contract to direct a Mexican film on condition that he would be granted total artistic freedom. The contract also stipulated that the film would be "non-political," that immediately available funding came from Mary Sinclair in an amount of "not less than Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars," that the shooting schedule amounted to "a period of from three to four months," and most importantly that "Eisenstein furthermore agrees that all pictures made or directed by him in Mexico, all negative film and positive prints, and all story and ideas embodied in said Mexican picture, will be the property of Mrs. Sinclair..." 

Accompanied by Aleksandrov and Tisse, Einstein on 4 December 1930, left for Mexico by train. The title of his Mexican project, ¡Que viva México!, was decided on some time later still. While in Mexico Eisenstein mixed socially with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The film had many legal battles in Mexico, and thus Einstein with his team decided to move to the U.S.A. At the American border, a customs search of his trunk revealed sketches and drawings of Jesus caricatures amongst other lewd pornographic material. 
He stayed in Texas, from where he toured the American South, on his way to New York, from where he flew back to Moscow.

Eisenstein married filmmaker and writer Vera Atasheva and remained married until his death in 1948.

In his career, Einstein won several awards:

  • Two Stalin Prizes
    • - 1941 for the film Alexander Nevsky (1938)
    • - 1946 for the 1st series of the film "Ivan the Terrible" (1944)
  • Honored Artist of the RSFSR (1935)
  • Order of Lenin (1939) – for the film Alexander Nevsky (1938)
  • Order of the Badge of Honour
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