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Sergei Eisenstein

Updated on December 1, 2016

Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) was a Russian film director and theoretician, whose work (always controversial, always powerful, and always experimental) had an incalculable influence on the development of the cinema.

Eisenstein was born in Riga, Latvia, on January 23, 1898, and was trained as a civil engineer and architect. This training shows in his films, which are noteworthy for their composition, sense of form, and the use of "montage," in which short pieces of film are edited together to create an abrupt collision of images. His major motion pictures include Strike (1924), The Battleship Potemkin (1925), October (also called Ten Days that Shook the World, 1927), The General Line (also called The Old and New, 1928), Alexander Nevsky (1938), and Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (1942-1946).

From 1930 to 1932, Eisenstein worked on films in the United States for Paramount Pictures and in Mexico for the writer Upton Sinclair, but none of these projects was finished by him. Returning to the Soviet Union, he fell into disfavor with Joseph Stalin, and much of his subsequent work was banned or revised. Eisenstein died in Moscow on February 10, 1948.

Eisenstein taught film theory and production at the Moscow State Institute of Cinematography. His books-The Film Sense (Eng. tr., 1942), The Film Form (Eng. tr., 1949), and Notes of a Film Director (Eng. tr., 1959)- were mainly collected from class notes and are classics of film theory.

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