EISENSTEIN, SERGEI MIKHAILOVICH (1898–1948), Russian film director, son of a Jewish father who converted to Christianity and a non-Jewish mother. Eisenstein's work, revolutionary both in technique and in subject matter, was a major contribution to the modern art of the cinema. He was originally trained as a civil engineer, and served the Red Army in this capacity during the Russian civil war. In 1920, however, Eisenstein took up stage work, joining first the Proletkult Theater in Moscow and then the avant-garde company of V. Meyerhold. He was a disciple of Meyerhold in stage direction. After deciding that the theater was not close enough to the masses, he turned his attention to the cinema. His first film was The Strike (1924), followed in 1925 by Battleship Potemkin, which had an immediate impact on contemporary film making. It demonstrated a new approach, the dramatic handling of crowd scenes, and the use of nonprofessional actors for greater realism. Eisenstein further developed his methods in October (1926), a film about the Russian Revolution, and The General Line (1929), which extolled Soviet agriculture. He was invited to Hollywood in 1931, but his scenarios proved unacceptable there. With the assistance of the novelist Upton Sinclair he spent 14 months in Mexico making a film on the Mexican revolution but he was recalled to the U.S.S.R. before its completion. Parts were edited in Hollywood as Thunder Over Mexico (1933), evoking much criticism as being untrue to Eisenstein's principles. Another section of the film was issued in 1940 as Time in the Sun. In the 1930s he encountered difficulties with the authorities, who saw film as an important propaganda tool. They criticized his esthetic approach, and he was unable complete some of his works. In Russia, after these difficulties, he won the Order of Lenin for Alexander Nevsky (1938). Of his Ivan the Terrible trilogy, part 1 was shown in 1946, part 2 was suppressed until 1958, and part 3 was not shot. He expounded his theories in lectures and in two books, The Film Sense (1942) and Film Form (1949). Though he never affirmed his Jewish ancestry, he agreed to appear together with other known Jewish cultural activists in antifascist meetings on August 24, 1941, and in 1942. Eisenstadt's memoirs, called Beyond the Stars and written in 1946, appeared as volume 4 of his selected works in 1997 (published by the British Film Institute). A previous version had appeared in 1983 as Immoral Memories. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Seton, Sergei Eisenstein (Eng., 1952). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: O. Bulgakowa, Sergei Eisenstein, a Biography (2002); A. Nesbit, Sergei Eisenstein and the Shape of Thinking (2003); R. Bergen, Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict (1999).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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