As the title suggests, Gallez’s article examines two artists‘ collaboration not only on Nevsky, but also on Ivan the Terrible, a movie Eisenstein made few years after Nevsky. The essay is structured around the scope of Prokofiev’s film music and his collaboration with Eisenstein, in order to offer a comprehensive analysis of the audio-visual structure of Nevsky and Ivan (the latter is unimportant for the purpose of this bibliography). Gallez notes that although neither artist characterized their approach to Nevsky as approaching a production of an opera, when wedding music and film in this movie their style is ultimately “operatic”. Echoing another film critic Sadoul, Gallez argues that Nevsky is an instance of a “cinematographic opera”, employing “aural-visual counterpoint” (16) - it intertwines the realism of cinema per se (film as a medium of art) with the stylization of dramatic work (opera as an art form). However, for Gallez, the result of such mixing produced an “awkward result” (17). He identifies the “inconsistent design” as the major fault - Eisenstein switching between the realistic and symbolic approaches; between using pre-recorded score and altering the music to fit the edited material; and the overall absence of logic in musical entrances and exits (20). Nevertheless, Gallez also admits it is partly due to the obsolete film and sound equipment in the Soviet Union at that time, and ultimately declares that Nevsky is more than a clumsy attempt at creating a cinematic opera; because above all, it is a unique and totally original film music work that “should be judged for its overall merit and the totality of its effect” (28).
Evaluation & Analysis:
This article is by far the most outstanding academic work on Prokofiev-Eisenstein collaboration and with its special emphasis on placing the Nevsky score within the larger context of Prokofiev-Eisenstein teamwork, it is also the most significant one within this annotated bibliography. Gallez offers a very systematic and structural analysis – he divides the essay into various themes and topics and then peels off the unimportant stuff by either refuting, or taking useful insights, from others’ arguments, and eventually getting to the real core of the issue and offering his own standpoint. His research on this topic is the most extensive among others, he presents correct factual information, his reasoning is very sound and to-the-point, and his writing style is truly elaborate. In pure analytical terms, Gallez’s article does not have any logical inconsistencies. The only challenging aspect to Gallez is the fact that he is asking himself “How does the music relate to the film?” while he could be further asking “And how does the film relate to the music?”. But not to be unfair to Gallez, his thesis does state that he intends to consider “the merits of the music as support for the films and as pure music” and not vice-versa. From this perspective, Gallez’s assessment of the Eisenstein-Prokofiev collaboration and his analysis of the functional and conceptual aspects of Nevsky film score are unmatched in the academic circles.
This historic collective “Statement on Sound”, initiated and composed by Eisenstein and endorsed by the other two prominent Soviet filmmakers (Pudovkin and Alexandrov), first appeared in 1928. The ”Statement” opens up with an acknowledgement that the progress in the technical development of Soviet sound-film was slow, but it nevertheless proceeds to lay out some theoretical principles about the relationship of sound to the visual images. It reiterates the basic standpoint of early Soviet filmmakers about cinema as a separate and distinct form of art from the theatre and then goes on to suggest that sound movies should follow a continuous line of development out of the silent cinema. The trio emphasized the need to develop a sound montage “along the line of its distinct non-synchronization with the visual images”, and through a metaphor of music, asserted that “only a contrapuntal use of sound in relation to the visual montage piece” will afford new possibilities for montage development and perfection, eventually creating “an orchestral counterpoint of visual and aural images” (258). In Eisenstein’s words, this contrapuntal method of constructing the sound-film had a potential to bring the significance of the international cinema to an unprecedented power and cultural height.
Evaluation & Analysis:
Because the “Statement” was written before the arrival of sound to the Soviet Union, this document, by placing the problem within a larger context, is crucial for understanding Eisenstein’s theory of sound cinema. The theoretical standards laid out here are essential in creating a framework for analytical assessment of the interplay between the audio and visual forms in Eisenstein’s first sound movie Alexander Nevsky and they will be also useful in the investigation of the Eisenstein-Prokofiev collaboration. The Eisenstein-Pudovkin-Alexandrov manifesto advocates an organic unity of sound cinema - a conflux of audio and visual forms, where the sound is intentionally non-synchronized with the visual images. The preferred contrapuntal use of sound would effectively reduce the role of language in the sound cinema and consequently prevent commercial exploitation of the “talking movies”. According to Eisenstein, cinema was supposed to be first and foremost an international language and he was concerned that language-based cinema markets would undermine the international prominence enjoyed by the Soviet cinema at the time. In other words, in the “Statement”, Eisenstein sought to extend the fundamentals of silent cinema into sound cinema and Alexander Nevsky could be therefore regarded as the first test of his own theories.