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Nicholas and Alexandra
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85 out of 94 people found the following review useful:

Among the last of the "thinking man's epics" and one of the best.

10/10
Author: GulyJimson (GulyJimson@aol.com) from Los Angeles, CA
5 October 2002

At the time of it's release in December of 1971, "Nicholas and Alexandra" must have seemed like an anachronistic piece of film-making, especially when compared with fellow Best Picture Nominees, "A Clockwork Orange", "The French Connection" and "The Last Picture Show". Based on a best-selling work of popular history, it was film making on a grand scale, boasting for it's cast a veritable who's who of the English speaking stage, a sweeping love story spanning many years, thrown over thousands of miles, using the conflict of World War I and the Russian Revolution as it's background. It must have seemed to many like the best film David Lean never made. And superficially it does resemble Lean's epic of a few years earlier, "Doctor Zhivago". Indeed three of Lean's close associates, Producer Sam Spiegel, Production Designer John Box, and Cinematographer, Freddie Young all shine in this production. Unfortunately having arrived late in the historical epic film cycle, it was largely dismissed at the time of it's release by critics, but time has revealed it's many virtues.

Produced with lavish care and attention to detail by Sam Spiegel for Horizon Pictures, "Nicholas and Alexandra" is among the last of the great "thinking man's epics" and one of the best. This is due in no small measure to the wonderful screenplay by James Goldman. Goldman, who also scripted "The Lion in Winter" and "Robin and Marian" had a fine ear for dialogue, and "Nicholas and Alexandra" is a pleasure to listen to as well as to behold. Like Robert Bolt's "Lawrence of Arabia", Charles Wood's "Charge of the Light Brigade" and Robert Ardrey's "Khartoum", all fine historical epics, Goldman's "Nicholas and Alexandra" is elevated by an intelligent script laced with fine dialogue. Transposing history onto the screen is never an easy task, but the story of the last years of the Romanov Dynasty is well served by Goldman. He skillfully telescopes events, while still remaining basically true to historic fact. One way or another, all films dealing with history compromise fact for drama. The best of them achieve a balance between the two. Those pedants who quibble over this fact of life, please refer to the historical plays of Shakespeare for it's validation.

Among the film's many pleasures is the high level of acting by an impressive cast. Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman are simply magnificent in the lead roles. It was an uncanny and bold choice using two unknowns to star in a film of this scope, and they have no problems carrying the three hour film. Both create complex, three-dimensional characters, deeply flawed, yet appealing, sympathetic and infuriating. it is the film's unwillingness to portray them as simply victims that gives it tragic grandeur. A special note must be made of Tom Baker's performance as Rasputin. Too often in previous movies film-makers have exploited the sensational events of the man's life and nothing more. This film actually had the courage to downplay those lurid elements, striving instead for complexity of character. Here we have a tortured individual, a charlatan and a monk, lascivious yet craving spiritual redemption. The Imperial Children are also sensitively depicted, with a standout performance by Roderic Noble as the hemophiliac only son, Alexis. The internal angst he brings to the part in his later scenes is impressive. Franklin J. Schaffner's able direction keeps the film moving along, and at no time is there any danger of the film losing focus on the two leads. This was no mean feat considering the powerhouse supporting cast that included, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Harry Andrews, Irene Worth, Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, Michael Bryant, Brian Cox, Eric Porter, Timothy West, Peter McEnery, Julian Glover, Roy Dotrice, Maurice Denham, Alan Webb, Guy Rolfe, Steven Berkof and John Wood, all of whom do memorable turns.

In the first half of the movie, the filmmakers vividly bring to life the isolated fairy-tale world the Imperial Family inhabited. The beautiful palaces, and villas provide a striking contrast to the shabby, squalid prison quarters of the film's second half, which deals largely with the Romanov's exile and imprisonment in Siberia. The murder of the Royal Family in the basement of the Ipatiev house, the so called "House of Special Purpose" is one of the most strikingly directed scenes in the film. The brutal suddenness with which it is depicted packs quite a wallop. Filmed in Panavision, the film is gorgeous to look at. John Box's recreation of Imperial Russia at the turn of the century truly deserved it's Academy Award for Best Production Design, as did Yvonne Blake for Best Costume Design. Freddie Young's stunning cinematography and Richard Rodney Bennett's haunting music score were also nominated, though they both lost to other films. Finally it is a beautifully edited film, a marvelous example of invisible editing used to create a subtle, but powerful sense of irony. A superb film that deals intelligently with the problems inherent in transposing history onto film.

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37 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful!

Author: Jodi Goldfinger from Stone Mountain, GA
11 February 2001

Nicholas was King George V's cousin and Alexandra was Queen Victoria's granddaughter, so the casting of British actors Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman was a stroke of genius (and they are hardly "unknown" actors, at least in Britain). You actually believe they ARE the couple. Michael Jayston is truly remarkable as Nicholas and even resembles him. The rest of the cast is superb, especially Tom Baker's portrayal as Rasputin . . . marvelous!

The movie sticks pretty much to the facts. Keep in mind, Nicholas was not a bad man, but he didn't want to be Czar. He would have preferred to be a potato farmer. You feel the fear growing as Nicholas and his family slowly withdraw into their own world because of Alexis' Hemophilia. Nichola's stand that "God meant for me to rule" causes him to rarely listen to the good advice of the people around him and not heed the warning that he not go to the front to "take charge." Add to this the rumor of Alexandra being a German spy, Rasputin's death by Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dimitry, the loss of thousands of soldiers, the starving Russian people . . . and Nicholas leaves the door wide open for Lenin and his eventual return to power. After he abdicates, he and his family are shuttled around until they end up in Ekaterinburg and "The House of Special Purpose."

This is a great movie. See it if you have a long afternoon with nothing to do, you won't regret it.

BTW, the DVD version adds deleted scenes that sew up some loose ends.

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40 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

I do not understand the reservations

Author: jbuck_919 from Bamberg, Germany
4 August 2002

It may have something to do with the fact that I was at Princeton at the same time as the screenwriter's hemophiliac son, but everyone seems to be falling over themselves in finding fault with this nearly perfect movie. Tom Baker didn't "fade into obscurity," he became the most famous Doctor Who. The principals are exemplary and totally true to every historic account I've read. One commentator mentions inanely that Nikolaus was a cousin of King George while Alexandra was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Excuse me folks, we all know that. It makes them first cousins, which is one of the reasons the heir to all the Russias had a deadly hereditary disease. (Nikolaus, George V, and Kaiser Wilhelm were all first cousins.) This movie knocks one out with its combination of costume drama and realism. I don't make ten favorites lists but if I did it might be there. An absolute must see, over and over again.

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32 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Nicky And Alicky - Interesting Piece If Somewhat Flawed

7/10
Author: Noirdame79 from Canada
5 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a beautifully filmed epic, but let me forewarn you that it's not always accurate (but then, few are). Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman excel as the doomed Imperial couple, whose love for each other and their children is touching, but whose incapability to rule their country makes them appear insensitive to their subjects. Tom Baker as the infamous Grigory Rasputin fits the bill for the role, and he even manages to insert bits of humor in this much portrayed character. The incomparable Sir Laurence Olivier is impeccable in his turn as Witte. One of the most memorable scenes is the murder of Rasputin, again, somewhat fictionalized but highly watchable and entertaining. Martin Potter (Prince Felix Yussopov) is fascinating and repellent, while Richard Warwick (RIP) as Grand Duke Dmitry is boyishly and deliciously captivating. Irene Worth as the Dowager Empress is so natural, and the majority of the characters (I've noted some exceptions below) came off very well. The reconstruction of Bloody Sunday, WW1, and the execution were expertly presented.

However, several scenes (some not included in the video release, but restored on DVD) are fictionalized or downright false. On the DVD, for example, the part where Grand Duchess Tatiana (the late Lynne Fredrick, RIP) exposes herself to a Bolshevik guard in Ekaterinburg is fabricated and ridiculous. The supposed 'attempted suicide' by Alexei was again misrepresented - the actual incident which occurred at Tobolsk was accidental. Yakovlev (Sir Ian Holm) is portrayed as a hating, nasty man, when in actuality, he treated the Czar and his family with the utmost respect, despite his membership with the Bolsheviks. Jacob Yurovsky (Alan Webb) is shown to be a kind, elderly gentleman, which he was most certainly not. The Imperial daughters were not given much to do, and their characters were never fully developed. We pretty much had to guess which daughter each actress was portraying (until the climax), and the actresses did not resemble the real people at all!!! The eldest daughter was too dark-haired, thin-lipped and sharp-featured (not to say that she was unattractive), while the second was the wrong physical type, the third again had hair that was too dark, wrong body type and was too short. The youngest was too tall, and her hair was too light. And those 70s hairstyles! I guess I'm too picky, but considering the excellent job of casting with the main characters, they were way off here!

On the whole, worthwhile viewing, but I recommend that people read biographies of the Romanovs before seeing the movie, and try to get it on DVD if possible. The final scene is hard to watch (at least I thought so) and on the DVD print watch for 'movie mistakes'!!! But don't miss it. And oh, those costumes and locations!

An interesting note: John Wood, who plays Colonel Koblinsky here, later played Prime Minister Stolypin in 'Rasputin: Dark Servant Of Destiny'.

"Take your girls - or, your boys - frolic in the provinces, but get him out of here!"

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26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Dynasty - with a superior, intelligent script

9/10
Author: manuel-pestalozzi from Zurich, Switzerland
5 July 2006

This truly beautiful movie with considerable artistic value should not be watched for its historical accuracy or its lack of geographical precision. It is mainly a story about a marriage of two weak but lovable people who somehow should not have been where fate put them. You could call Nicholas and Alexandra an anti-monarchistic manifesto.

The script really is first rate, it doesn't matter that all the characters are far more English than Russian, what counts is the way a tragic situation unfolds in front of the viewers. For many the last czar probably was a monster as he ordered the death of hundreds of thousands. Yet watching the movie you want to believe that he is the victim of circumstances, far removed from everyday life and a husband and father who cares deeply and, in spite of all his outrageous decisions and non-decisions, wants „to be good". Strange as it seems, but the intimate scenes between him and his wife are the highlights of the movie, as they really bring out the affection between two people who are attracted to each other although they are only too familiar with each other's flaws. It makes the tragic ending of the movie all the more sad.

I had the chance to visit Nicholas' palace in Yalta a few years back. It is full of family snapshots, as the czar was an avid photographer (and also movie maker). It is striking how modern those pictures are, how relaxed and „middle class" the imperial family, always in bathing suits or some elegant leisure wear, appears. In a strange way the Russian emperor comes through as being much less crusty than his contemporaries on the throne of Britain, Germany or Austria-Hungary. It gives you the idea that he was a modern man. Strangely, whenever he himself is in the photos, he is never in the center of the picture but always somewhere in a marginal position, seeming to be either bemused or slightly embarrassed. What a sad career!

An interesting side-effect of the movie is the fact that it shows that at the outset of World War I the crowned heads of Europe, many of them related to each other and on relatively intimate terms, could have prevented the bloodshed. They failed colossally and thus sealed the fate of a continent that still tries to find unity and a common denominator.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Decent But Dense

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
23 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nicholas And Alexandra covers a lot of the same ground that Dr. Zhivago does and a good deal more. The difference is that Zhivago views the Russian Revolution and its aftermath from the view of several fictional, but real composite people author Boris Pasternak knew.

Robert K. Massie however was writing history, not fiction, and his story is intertwined with the personal story of Nicholas Romanov and Alexandra of Hesse who were a rarity among royalty, a love match. The only other one like it that comes immediately to mind is that of Charles Stuart and Queen Henrietta Marie of Great Britain. And both monarchs came to the same tragic end.

I read the book many years ago, 1971 to be precise. It was in the day room of the basic training company I was assigned in that garden spot of the universe, Fort Polk, Louisiana. For several weeks I went to that room and read about Nicky and Alix and their times. I became the Romanov expert of Fort Polk. Too bad there wasn't a call for my knowledge. Mr. Massie is also one incredibly slow writer, in this case I really recommend you see the movie rather than read the book.

The story covers the time from the birth of their last child, the Tsarevitch Alexis to the deaths of the Romanov family. Perhaps if Nicholas had not been the good and caring father he was, dealing with Alexis's hemophilia, he might have paid more attention to stirrings in his country and the course of world history might have been different.

Nicholas was an autocrat though, the last among the major European rulers. Even his cousin the Kaiser had given his country an elected Parliament and was far more advanced industrially. He had what most reckoned was the best army in the world, the best trained, the most mechanized and a mighty industrial machine. All Russia had was a vast population which took a bad beating in two wars, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I in Nicholas's time.

Nicholas thought as his predecessor Alexander I did, that he could outlast the outsiders as his people did under Napoleon's invasion. The problem was that he never grasped that he was not giving his people a reason to fight and Lenin and the Bolsheviks were giving them every reason to quit.

Michael Jayston plays the complex role of Czar Nicholas II, a man both decent and dense at the same time. Janet Suzman was the Czarina Alexandra, a woman who insisted on her royal prerogatives on all occasions.

Suzman, who was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Jane Fonda for Klute, has the most interesting role. Hemophilia is hereditary and while men get it, the women are the carriers. Her guilt over that and remember were not just talking an ordinary family, but a royal heir caused her to seek out every quack remedy going and ultimately to the influence of the malevolent Rasputin.

If Rasputin were alive today he'd be a starting a televangelist movement for the Russian Orthodox Church. To this day no one really knows what powers and abilities he had over the young Tsarevitch and his ability control the bleeding, but whatever it was, it did work. He gained ascendancy over the Tsarina because of that.

Tom Baker, best known as the Fourth Doctor Who, plays the charismatic and cunning Rasputin. This is probably is best performance outside the Doctor Who series. Why he wasn't given Oscar consideration, the Deity only knows.

Out of the large supporting cast Laurence Olivier stands out as Count Witte, the best of Nicholas's ministers. Witte in his career was responsible for the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and was able to negotiate a peace that involved great saving of face for Russia which was beaten badly in the Russo-Japanese War. In the film and in real life Witte was not listened to.

Nicholas and Alexandra is both entertaining and historically accurate. Besides Janet Suzman's nomination the film received several other nominations and won for Best Art&Set Decorations and Best Costume Design. Director Franklin J. Schaffner was overlooked for Best Director, then again he won the previous year for Patton. Nicholas and Alexandra was also up for Best Picture, but lost to The French Connection. I wouldn't miss it if it's broadcast.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Great Movie..great acting!

9/10
Author: clee7903 (clee7903@yahoo.ca) from Vancouver, Canada
14 July 2004

I have always been fascinated by Russia's last tsar and his family. I have literally read dozens of books as well as articles about them. This movie puts into perspective what I have known all along. I came across this movie (VHS form) over 10 years ago. I've read Robert K Massie's book and although the movie can never be as concise as a book, it skillfully captures the mood and developed the plot really well as the movie progresses. The casting also deserved a big applause. Jayston and Suzman did a wonderful job portraying the real tsar and tsarista. The only thing I guess (and it is not fault of theirs) is perhaps better sounds and graphics. I had to turn up my volume really high to hear what they are saying especially if the actors speak softly as demanded by the mood of that scene. Oh well..it's the early 70's..what can we expect. Great movie...i would recommend it to everyone.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Moving Modern Epic

8/10
Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
15 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Nicholas and Alexandra" is an example of what might be called the "modern epic", the genre which sought to apply the scale and techniques of the Biblical or Classical epic to episodes from nineteenth or twentieth history. Although ancient history epics fell out of favour after the mid-sixties, the modern epic had a longer shelf-life, surviving into the eighties ("Gandhi", "The Last Emperor") and even the nineties ("Titanic").

Perhaps the greatest exponent of the modern epic was David Lean, the director of "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Dr Zhivago", and "Ryan's Daughter". He also attempted to make "A Passage to India" in a similar style, although it is a style not really suited to Forster's novel. It may have been the success of "Dr Zhivago" which persuaded the makers of this film to try another epic with a Russian theme, although this time based upon fact rather than a work of fiction. It tells the story of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra. Although it is a lengthy film, around three hours in length, it does not tell the story of their courtship (which might have made an interesting film in itself, given Nicholas's father's opposition to Alexandra as a daughter-in-law), nor of the early years of their marriage. It begins around 1904, the time of Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and of the birth of the couple's only son, Alexis.

Nicholas was a strange and contradictory character. In his public life he was determined to defend Russia's autocratic system of government, even though his weak and vacillating personality made him an unlikely and unsuitable autocrat. In private, however, he was a kindly man, deeply in love with his wife and a loving father to his children. (Similar contradictions can be seen in the characters of two other monarchs who fell victims to revolutions, Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France). Alexandra, however beloved she may have been by her husband and family, was never popular with the Russian people. This was partly due to her German background (the Germans, for political reasons, were often disliked in Russia at this period), partly because she was seen as cold and aloof and partly because she had fallen under the influence of the mystic Rasputin, who was widely though incorrectly believed to be her lover.

Epics about turn-of-the-century royalty have not always been successful; "Mayerling", made a few years earlier about another doomed pair of royal lovers, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his mistress Marie Vetsera, was sumptuous to look at but otherwise uninteresting. "Nicholas and Alexandra", by contrast, is as visually attractive as the earlier film but a much better film all round. Whereas "Mayerling" featured two big-name stars, Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve, in the leading roles, Nicholas and Alexandra are played by two relatively unknown actors, Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman, and it is the unknowns who come off best. In the hands of Sharif and Deneuve Rudolf and Marie remain dull and inert, whereas Jayston (who bears a close resemblance to the late Tsar) and Suzman succeed in making their characters three-dimensional and well rounded, sympathetic despite their all-too-obvious flaws. There are some other excellent contributions from Tom Baker (the future Doctor Who) as Rasputin, here portrayed not as an outright villain but as a man possessed of a certain spirituality despite his own character weaknesses (such as a taste for strong drink and pretty women), from Michael Bryant as Lenin, played as an arrogant autocrat-in-the-making, and from Timothy West as the Imperial Family's loyal doctor.

After the Revolution of 1917 the Communists tried to portray their seizure of power as the inevitable result of ineluctable historical forces. In reality, the replacement of a bad system by a worse one was anything but inevitable. Although Tsarist autocracy was, by the early twentieth century, an anachronistic institution, and one that was probably unsustainable in the long run, many Russians still retained a certain affection for their "Batyushka", or Little Father, and the system might well have lasted much longer but for chance factors. We see Lenin and his comrades in their Zurich exile, lamenting the seeming indestructibility of the Russian monarchy and fearing that their own movement is doomed to failure. What sealed the doom of Tsarism and allowed the Communists their chance was the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the poor performance of the Russian armies, leading to popular unrest to the fall of the regime in March 1917, and the final triumph of the Bolsheviks in November of that year after a brief, doomed attempt to create a liberal democracy. (John McEnery is very good as the idealistic Kerensky, leader of the democratic forces, whose idealism is frustrated first by the stubbornness of the Tsar and then by the ruthlessness of the Communists).

The most moving scenes in the film are the final ones, when the Romanovs are being held prisoner. The tone of these scenes is cold, bleak and forbidding, a deliberate contrast to the visual splendours of the earlier scenes in the Imperial palaces. There is yet another good performance from Alan Webb as the hypocritical Yurovsky, the family's jailer who welcomes them with seeming politeness while all the time plotting their murder on the orders of his superiors in Moscow. The final scene when Nicholas, Alexandra, their children and their servants are gunned down by Yurovsky and his men is unbearably poignant. A fitting end to this excellent film. 8/10

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Impressive Period Piece Details The Fall Of Russian Royalty

6/10
Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
17 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the early twentieth century Nicholas Romanov is the Tsar of Russia, presiding over an empire from his palace in St Petersburg, and his wife Alexandra has just given birth to a son and heir. All is not well however; the child is gravely ill with haemophilia, a war with Japan in the East is going badly and another with Germany in the West awaits, there is widespread poverty and resentment, and bolshevik agitators are planning revolution ...

Epic historical biopics are often stodgy and overlong and whilst this one (based on a book by Robert K. Massie) could probably do to lose a reel or two, it is nevertheless a powerful, moving and impressive account of the downfall of the royal house of the Romanovs and the Red Revolution of 1917. It's certainly an amazing true story about a couple who literally lost an empire, a mad monk who played a crucial role in their downfall and the transformation of a huge nation from one form of tyrannical oppression to another. It's also a very moving tragedy - Nicholas was not immoral, but his foolish pride in his noble lineage ultimately led to millions of wasted lives and his ignorance of his people's plight sealed his family's fate. The drama focuses on their descent from opulent splendour to powerlessness, exile, house-arrest and ultimately assassination at the hands of the communists. Produced by the legendary Sam Spiegel, the film is filled with amazing sets and costumes, all beautifully photographed by Freddie Young. The largely unknown cast are excellent, most notably Baker as the rapacious Rasputin, who wormed his way into the Empress' affections, and in his own way was more of a revolutionary than Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky, and Olivier as prime minister Witte, who delivers an impassioned speech on the folly of the Great War. This is a great drama and an enjoyable epic, but also a pointed history lesson for those interested in what eventually befalls all nobility. Do you think the Windsors have seen it ?

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Dazzling cinema, disappointing drama

8/10
Author: carmi47-1 from United States
6 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Robert Massie's _Nicholas and Alexandra_, basis of this film, appeared to acclaim in 1968. Massie gave the first straightforward look at Nicholas II and Alexandra, last sovereigns of Old Russia. Most people knew only outlines of their tragedy--their son was hemophiliac, victim of a condition hereditary in Alexandra's family: the boy might bleed to death from any injury. His poor health left Alexandra vulnerable to a charlatan, Rasputin, who gained unchallenged influence over her. Massie put flesh and blood on these bones. But his own son was hemophiliac, and his outlook blinkered by personal knowledge of his wife's agony as a mother responsible for her son's sufferings. Inescapably, Massie's book is sympathetic to Alexandra and until the 1990s, most accounts of the Romanovs echoed him: the empress' excesses were excused as those of a distraught mother in the grip of guilt and grief.

After 1989, Russian archival material radically changed this picture. Letters and diaries by politicians and the Romanov family prove that Alexandra was strongly disliked and distrusted. Her uninformed political meddling arose from undue confidence in her own limited abilities and was a main factor in the events of 1917-18. Domestically she was a hypochondriac tyrant, emotionally distant from her daughters and smotheringly watchful over Alexei who, like his sisters, never developed social skills appropriate to his age.

Against these revised views on the Tsar and his wife, "Nicholas and Alexandra" seems almost quaint today. It is nonetheless visually glorious cinema; sumptuous interiors, beautiful uniforms and gowns, and staggering wealth displayed in jewels, delight the eye and visualize the isolated world these people inhabited. The contrast between imperial wealth and urban poverty is, however, too sharply drawn. We see how factory workers lived, but the film ignores Russia's growing middle class when increasing wealth and education favored a flourishing cultural life--the works of such men as Tchaikovsky and Gorky. Massie's book dealt with such developments; but the film ignores them, so viewers' image of late Tsarist Russia is skewed.

Dramatically, "Nicholas and Alexandra" is rarely anything but turgid. In only one scene did James Goldman, a gifted screenwriter, rise to the level he achieved in "The Lion in Winter"--the dialogue between Nicholas and Alexei after the boy races his sled downstairs into a closed door: Goldman sensitively develops their words into a dialogue between the disgraced Tsar and Russia itself. With one brief exception(see below) the film doesn't sustain that level.

We rarely get a satisfying sense of the relationship between Tsar and empress, who either express undying love for each other or quarrel over Rasputin and how Nicholas should run his government. One of the clearest glimpses of the relationship comes late in the film, as Nicholas argues not with his wife but with his mother over Alexandra's influence. The film more successfully maps Alexandra's relationship with Rasputin, as witness the first scene between them at the dowager empress' birthday party. Here we see how deftly the pseudo-monk played on Alexandra's fears.

Goldman alters chronology for dramatic effect even when the historical record is dramatic enough. The film has Alexei's near-fatal illness at Spala followed by celebrations for the Romanovs' 300th anniversary, and the shooting of Prime Minister Stolypin. In fact Stolypin died in 1911, Alexei's illness was in 1912 and the Romanov tercentenary in 1913. What Goldman hoped to achieve by shuffling these events is unclear. Possibly it was to juxtapose Alexei's recovery at Spala, and Rasputin's consequent vindication, with the outbreak of World War I, when Alexandra, acting for an absent Nicholas, appointed hopelessly unqualified ministers Rasputin recommended, men in whose hands the Tsar's government collapsed in 1917. But if this was Goldman's intent, he failed to make his meaning clear.

Many scenes are sanitized, especially the last. We know they'll be shot. The director's endless delay of that moment as the family sits in that basement room is unbearable, if not inexcusable. The shooting itself is so brisk that but for the guns, we would hardly know what was happening. That said, I hope no film ever recreates the family's last minutes as Greg King and Penny Wilson reconstruct them in excruciating detail, using archival accounts by members of the firing squad and the forensic evidence of the bones recovered in 1979 (King and Wilson, _The Fate of the Romanovs_ Hoboken, 2003, chapter 12.)

Reviewers here criticize the scene, invented by Goldman, in which Tatiana disrobes before a young guard. Astoundingly, however, King and Wilson found documentary proof that during a snap inspection of the Ipatiev house on June 27, 1918, Grand Duchess Marie was found in a compromising "situation" with a guard named Ivan Skorokhodov (King and Wilson, _Fate of the Romanovs_, pp. 243-47). Documents proving this were still hidden away in Goldman's day. His invention of Tatiana's self-exposure thus reveals that he did have a dramatic sense of, and made an effort to portray, the feelings he realized these tragic young women experienced as they endured confinement and faced death. The documents do not reveal details of Marie's "situation," but the event proved that security at the house was unreliable. With the White Army approaching Ekaterinburg, Marie's peccadillo led to the local Soviet's decision to execute the entire family three weeks later.

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