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Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein
(January 23, 1898 - February 10, 1948) Latvia - Russia

Sergei Eisenstein

Director, screenwriter, editor and theoretician


Born in Riga, Latvia, Eisenstein into a Jewish family of German descent, he was a gay film-maker. He was the only son of the architect Mikhail Osipovich Eisenstein and his wife Julia Ivanovna nee Konetskaya. He went to a technical grammar school in Riga and studied German, English and French. He spent his adolescence, after the divorce of his parents, with his mother in St. Petersburg. He got his education at The school of Fine Arts in Riga, Institute of Civil Engeneering (architecture, Petrograd), Officers Engeneering School (Engeneering), General Staff Academy (Oriental languages, Moscow) and State School for stage direction.

Que Viva MexicoHe participated in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. In 1918 he volunteered for the Red Army and became a member of the Proletkult theatre movement. From 1919 onwards he designed stage sets and directed a number of experimental plays. A famous pioneer in Russian cinema, he pioneered the use of montage (a technique of deliberately juxtaposing shots to create a particular meaning) as a means of propaganda, as in The Battleship Potemkin.

His best-known works include Alexander Nevsky the first part of an uncompleted trilogy, being Ivan the Terrible, Parts 1 and 2 the second part, banned in Russia.

Sergei EisensteinEisenstein also wrote two books on filmmaking, The Film Sense and Film Form. Karlinsky writes that when he was in Mexico filming ¡Que Viva Mexico! his homosexuality nearly caused an international scandal. In Mexico during 1930-32 he lived openly as a gay man, and he was blackmailed into returning to the Soviet Union by the authorities, who threatened to expose his private life. On his arrival home he was forced to marry before he could make another film; his assistant Pera Attasheva agreed to tie the knot, but they never lived together.

He died in Moscow. He was in love with Grigory Alexandrov.

For an analysis of homoerotic images in his films (remember the cannons in Potemkin?) see Thomas Waugh, A Fag Spotter's Guide to Eisenstein, "Body Politic", no. 35 (July/August 1977). Some of Eisenstein's erotic drawings were published in Literaturnoe obozrenie: Erotika v russkoi literature (1992).

Eisenstein's drawing
Eisenstein's drawing


Sergei EisensteinFilms:

  • Stachka (Strike, 1925)
  • Bronenosets Potemkin (Battleship Potemkin, 1925)
  • Oktaybr (October, 1928)
  • Staroe i novoe (Old and New, 1929)
  • Aleksandr Nevsky (1938)
  • Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible, part 1 ,1945; part 2, 1958)
  • The Film Sense (1942)
  • Film Form (1949)
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