movieThemes: Alan Rickman
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RASPUTIN (1996)

Cast: Alan Rickman, Greta Scacchi, Ian McKellen, David Warner, John Wood
Director: Uli Edel
Producers: Nick Gilot
Screenplay: Peter Pruce
Cinematography: Elemér Ragályi
Music: Brad Fiedel
Approximate Running Time: 104 minutes
Warnings: Adult Themes
Rating:

Category: History/Drama

Alan Rickman as RasputinThe Plot: For 300 years, the Romanov Family have been a dynasty ruling Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century, the dynasty is troubled by the changing political ideals of the common Russian. The country teeters on the brink of a revolution as the politicians and the dynasty battle for control, with religious factions lending valuable and strategic support. Into this melee, the Siberian peasant-monk, Rasputin (Alan Rickman), who is believed to have special powers, is let into the Tsarina's inner circle to treat her son and ailing heir to the throne, Alexei. However, despite being a devoutly religious man, Rasputin's debaucherous and hedonistic life away from the palace brings the Romanov's under intense criticism and their ability to rule Russia is questioned.

Comment: This movie would be a fairy tale if it wasn't tragically based on fact! Peter Pruce has written a wondrous tale, magical in its delivery and tragic as it unfolds. Admittedly, certain events in Rasputin's life are glossed over with one sentence in places, but for the most part, this is a fairly accurate representation of the downfall of the Romanov family and the man that helped to bring them down.

The cinematographer, Ragályi, has made this a beautiful film to watch. Never is the scenery more cold than in the bleak snow-covered plains outside the city, and never is power more grand and glowing than inside the richly decorated palace. In this setting, Edel extracts virtuoso performances from his talented cast. Ian McKellen is amazing as the last Tsar of Russia. For anyone who has read anything about Tsar Nicholas II, you will be blown away by the similarity between McKellen's portrayal and the historically recorded Tsar himself. Greta Scacchi is luminous as the Tsarina, devoted wife of Nicholas and equally devoted follower of Rasputin.

Rickman performance as the enigmatic Rasputin is joy to watch in itself. Rasputin led an unconventional life for a man of God, and Rickman takes us through the many levels of the semi-literate peasant-monk, from soothsayer, healer, religious man, hedonistic lout and drunkard. Alan Rickman's depiction of Rasputin was so compelling, he went on to win several awards for it, including an Emmy, Golden Globe and British Academy for Best Actor.

The sheer magic of this film should bewitch anyone who watches it, be they history buffs or not. The story of Rasputin is so much more than the the lines immortalized in the Boney M song, 'Rasputin,' and this film should be compulsory viewing for anyone who does not know anything about this amazing period. Although the film may not be completely accurate, it does inspire one to delve into the records to find out more about this staggeringly huge and devastating time in Russian history.

(For further information about Rasputin, read Edvard Radzinsky's "Rasputin" (2000). This magnificent biography compiles all the historical documentation surrounding Rasputin and includes new information found in a mysterious 'missing file' which was unearthed at a Sotheby's auction about the time the film was being made.)

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