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Tsar (2009)

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In 16th-century Russia in the grip of chaos, Ivan the Terrible strongly believes he is vested with a holy mission. Believing he can understand and interpret the signs, he sees the Last ... See full summary »

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Title: Tsar (2009)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Pyotr Mamonov ...
Oleg Yankovskiy ...
Ramilya Iskander ...
Mariya Temryukovna
Anastasiya Dontsova ...
Masha
Aleksandr Domogarov ...
Aleksei Basmanov
Aleksandr Ilin ...
Fedka Basmanov
...
Heinrich Staden (as Ville Khaapasalo)
Aleksey Frandetti ...
Kai-Bulat
Ivan Okhlobystin ...
Vassian
Yuriy Kuznetsov ...
Malyuta Skuratov
Aleksey Makarov ...
General Kolychev
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Andrey Bronnikov
Aleksandr Lobanov ...
Mitka Pleshcheev
Aleksandr Makarov ...
Voevoda Buturlin
Artyom Mazunov
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Storyline

In 16th-century Russia in the grip of chaos, Ivan the Terrible strongly believes he is vested with a holy mission. Believing he can understand and interpret the signs, he sees the Last Judgment approaching. He establishes absolute power, cruelly destroying anyone who gets in his way. During this reign of terror, Philip, the superior of the monastery on the Solovetsky Islands, a great scholar and Ivan's close friend, dares to oppose the sovereign's mystical tyranny. What follows is a clash between two completely opposite visions of the world, smashing morality and justice, God and men. A grand-scale film with excellent leading roles by Mamonov and Yankovsky. An allegory of Stalinist Russia. Written by Warsaw Film Festival

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Drama | History

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4 November 2009 (Russia)  »

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Referenced in Pozner: Pavel Lungin (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Best seen in the context of Russian film history
8 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw that this film had won the Nike award (Russian equivalent of Oscar), so took advantage of a showing on the Russian channel on DirectTV (unsubtitled). I checked out the "Hollywood Reporter's" review of the showing in Cannes, and the first line of that review corresponds to the first comment I would post myself, relating it to Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev"(1967) and Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible." (1944)

While the title of the film is "Tsar," the personality of the Metropolitan Fillip, played by Oleg Yankovsky, really dominates. Ivan is viewed through Andrei's eyes, and is judged by his values. Like Tarkovsky's "Rublev" Fillip attempts to find spiritual meaning in the harshness of his times, and Ivan at first come across as an object of pity to whom the church father attempts to give spiritual guidance. The film presents of trinity of "Holy Fools" (Iurodyvye), who traditionally speak prophetic truth to power - in the persons of Fillip, the little girl, an the jester (whose revelations of Ivan's cruelty are for the film-viewers alone). Ivan tells Fillip to speak the truth to him, but becomes progressively more opposed to the holy truth and therefore more and more "terrible."

Stalin found confirmation for the "great man" approach to history in Eisenstein's earlier historical epics, but Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible,Part II" was banned when the historical necessity argument gave way to grotesque depiction of the oprichniki and the murder of a young pretender to the throne. Lungin's gritty realism is the director's means of unmasking the tsar's barbarity. The magnificence of the regal costuming and sets do not startle the viewer with pageantry, but rather offer a grotesque contrast between the mask of wealth on display in the presence of masses violently spilled blood.

What may appear as "straightforward storytelling" is in many ways a polemic with historical narratives of the past. Ivan is most terrible in the power that he wields through insanity and belief in his role as God's appointed servant.


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