Like many of Eisenstein's best films, Alexander Nevsky was conceived as a morale-booster, aimed at stirring up Russian patriotism. It is set in the 13th century, but the villainous Teutonic Knights are obviously meant to represent the burgeoning threat of Hitler's hordes. With Russia besieged by both these knights and by the Tartars, only a charismatic leader can save the populace from these barbaric baby killers (yes, we see the villains tossing screaming infants into bonfires!) The hero of the piece is the legendary Prince Alexander Nevsky, portrayed by Nikolai Cherkasov, who bears a striking resemblance to Gary Cooper. The saving turnaround for Nevsky is the battle of ice-covered Lake Peipus in 1242. This bravura sequence is staged in spectacular fashion, underlined by the specially-commissioned music of Sergei Prokofiev.
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