FIlmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s singular vision saw him win the approval of, but also get into hot water with, the Soviet authorities (he produced masterpieces including ‘Battleship Potemkin’ under Communist rule). His innate sense of montage, meanwhile, brought him fame the world over. In this exhibition we see another side of the great man, in the form of sketches made for the theatre, correspondence with funding agencies and drawings done just for amusement.
He turned out stunning Cubist-like sketches of figures from ‘Macbeth’ and enchanting ‘Ivan the Terrible’ storyboards that look like they could be transformed into animation (also a renowned film critic, Eisenstein wrote a book on Disney). His was undoubtedly a boundless imagination, and there is a focus on his travels including time he spent in London (he spent two years touring and lecturing in Europe). He even threw together some costume designs for a production of Sherlock Holmes which was never staged (‘Unrealised’ quickly emerges as a theme here).
Perhaps most intriguing are his quick, sultry sketches of French poets Rimbaud and Verlaine, whose passionate love affair during the 1870s was well documented and whose ‘scandalous’ lifestyle forced them to flee Paris for London. Eisenstein was apparently inspired by their story, and this perhaps props up rumours that he was purported to be gay; though if he wasn’t, he was certainly more open-minded than the Soviet government would have wanted (homosexuality was re-criminalised under Stalin’s rule). Despite any struggles or limitations he may have encountered – financial or otherwise – this intimate look at the director’s hand-produced work shows it was impossible to dampen his enduring spirit.