PRINT January 1973

The Third Meaning: Notes on Some of Eisenstein’s Stills

HERE IS AN IMAGE from Ivan the Terrible (I): two courtiers, confederates, or supernumeraries (it doesn’t really matter whether or not I recall the story’s details exactly) are showering the young czar’s head with gold. I believe I can distinguish three levels of meaning in this scene:

1) an informational level: collecting all I can learn from the setting, the costumes, the characters, their relationships, their appearance in an anecdote I am however vaguely familiar with. This level is that of communication. If I had to find an analytic mode at this level, I should resort to the semiotics of the “message”—though I shall not deal with this level, or with this semiotics, here.

2) A symbolic level: the shower of gold. This level is itself stratified. There is the referential symbolism: the imperial ritual of baptism by gold. Then there is the diegetic symbolism: the theme of gold, of wealth (

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