Google marks birth in Rīga of Sergei Eisenstein

January 22 marks 120 years to the day since the birth in Rīga of one of cinema's true greats: pioneering director Sergei Eisenstein, with search engine Google even including his image on its international homepages.

Sergei was the son of architect Mikhail Eisenstein, whose elaborate art nouveau works continue to adorn the Latvian capital's streets and who was an important figure in the Tsarist-era administration of the city. 

Born in 1898, Sergei spent his early years in Rīga, graduating from the Realschule in 1915.

However, his childhood was not a very happy one, and he resented the dominating control of his father after his parents divorced. Mikhail expected Sergei to become an architect in his footsteps, but Sergei clearly knew his talents lay elsewhere.

Looking back on his Rīga years later, Sergei wrote: "My protest against what was 'acceptable' in behavior and art, and my contempt of authority, were certainly linked to him [my father]... when I had to draw plaster figures, teapots and Dante's mask, it came out all wrong."

His extreme creativity and resentment of authority would continue to be a source of both inspiration and trouble throughout his life. Though works like Battleship Potemkin and Aleksander Nevsky became core pieces of Soviet propaganda as well as cinematic masterpieces, Stalin grew increasingly suspicious of Eisenstein in his later years.

He died aged just 48.

The short documentary below gives some idea of the impact Eisenstein's work had and continues to have on film and related arts.

 

A permanent exhibition dedicated to Sergei Eisenstein can be visited at the small but enjoyable Riga Film Museum on Peltavas iela in Rīga's Old Town.

But as well as leaving his own cinematic legacy, Eisenstein continues to provide inspiration to modern-day Latvian film-makers.

In 2013 the award-winning film Escaping Riga was released, focusing on both Eisenstein and his contemporary the philosopher Isaiah Berlin.

 

 

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