Sergei Eisenstein's unfinished masterpiece, Ivan the Terrible, was no ordinary movie. Commissioned by Joseph Stalin in 1941 to justify state terror in the 16th century and in the 20th, the film's politics, style and epic scope aroused controversy even before it was released. In This Thing of Darkness, Joan Neuberger offers a sweeping account of the conception, making and reception of Ivan the Terrible that weaves together Eisenstein's expansive thinking and experimental practice with a groundbreaking new view of artistic production under Stalin. Drawing on Eisenstein's unpublished production notebooks, diaries and manuscripts, Neuberger's riveting narrative chronicles Eisenstein's personal, creative and political challenges and reveals the ways cinematic invention, artistic theory, political critique and historical and psychological analysis went hand in hand in this famously complex film. Ivan the Terrible, she argues, shows us one of the world's greatest filmmakers and one of the 20th century's greatest artists observing the world around him and experimenting with every element of film art to explore the psychology of political ambition, uncover the history of recurring cycles of violence and lay bare the tragedy of absolute power.
Joan Neuberger's new book, This Thing of Darkness: Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible in Stalin’s Russia, was published by Cornell University Press in March 2019. Professor Neuberger studies modern Russian culture in social and political context, with a focus on the politics of the arts. She is the author of an eclectic range of publications, including Hooliganism: Crime and Culture in St. Petersburg, 1900-1914 and Ivan the Terrible: The Film Companion; co-author of Europe and the Making of Modernity, 1815-1914; and co-editor of Imitations of Life: Melodrama in Russia, Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture, Everyday Life in Russian History: Quotidian Studies in Honor of Daniel Kaiser and The Flying Carpet: Studies on Eisenstein in Honor of Naum Kleiman.