Alexander Nevsky: a well-made though not brilliant propaganda film about a Russian mediaeval hero

Sergei Eisenstein, “Alexander Nevsky” (1938) Unashamedly patriotic and stirring action-movie propaganda for the masses and the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin at the time of release, this historical fiction drama recreates one of the two battles fought by the 13th-century Russian hero Alexander Nevsky that determined his future career as a prince and politician: the …

Pilot Pirx’s Inquest: thoughtful low-budget sci-fi film about how humans and other intelligent beings can co-exist

Marek Pestrak, “Pilot Pirx’s Inquest” / “Test Pilota Pirxa” / “Doznanie Pilota Pirksa” (1979) A joint Polish-Estonian production, this low-budget movie about a space trip that nearly ends in tragedy examines the theme of how humans and human-like robots might co-exist if the robots, made to serve humans, realised they were superior to their masters in some …

Amphibian Man: hodge-podge of science fiction fantasy, action, doomed teen romance and anti-capitalist commentary

Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennady Kazansky, “Chelovek-Amfibiya” aka “Amphibian Man” (1962) An unusual science fiction / fantasy / romance of a doomed love affair combined with a love triangle and a bit of clumsy anti-capitalist commentary, this film was a hit with Soviet audiences in the early 1960s on first release. It still looks good for …

Rashomon: still a timely investigation into human nature and its need for approval, and how truth is lost

Akira Kurosawa, “Rashomon” (1950) For this film, director Kurosawa used a blend of two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”, the latter of the two providing the actual plot and characters. The film is an investigation in the nature of truth as interpreted by fallible and unreliable eyewitnesses and the extent …