Sultry Film About Murdered Last Tsar (Saint) Sparks Scandal in Russia

Russian Christians don't want anything to do with new, sexy, scandalous film about Tsar Nicholas II--a saint in the Russian church and a model family man

Matilda, the soon-to-be-released film about Tsar Nicholas II, has been breaking news for a few months in Russia. Christians are scandalized by the “gross lies” about the meek Russian ruler who was canonized as a saint by the Russian Christian Church. 

The film, which will be released on October 25th, is about the alleged pre-marital affair between the future Tsar Nicholas II and the prima ballerina Matilda Kschessinska. It is directed by Aleksey Uchitel and is an international project, supported by the Mariiinsky theater.

“‘The biggest historical blockbuster of the year,’ promises to reveal the “‘Secrets of the House of Romanov.’

Russian Christians find this topic particularly offensive because Tsar Nicholas, along with his entire family, has been canonized as saints in the Russian church.

Besides, mounds of historical documents show the perfect marital bliss Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, enjoyed throughout their 24-year marriage, in spite of the raging political and social turmoil around them. Their tremulous love letters, the unbelievable gentleness of the family’s relationships and their staunch Christian faith inspire Orthodox couples and serve as a model of the “perfect family.” 

Meanwhile, the film contrived heartbreaking scenes of a ‘love triangle’ in which Nicholas, both before and after marriage, is melodramatically torn between Matilda and Alexandra-- a gross historical exaggeration that is absolute “slander,” said popular author and bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, after watching the trailer.  

The fact that the main roles are played by foreigners (Matilda is played by Polish actress Mikhalina Olshansky and Nicholas II by Lars Eidinger from Germany) only adds insult to injury for the Russians who believe that the Tsar has been unfairly slandered by the West and the Soviet Regime (textbooks often describe him as a pathetic “weak ruler” or even as “bloody Nicholas”).

 Russian deputy Natalya Poklonskaya has made multiple attempts to stop the release of the film, alleging that the slander against the saint is an “un-Russian and un-religious provocation.” Some people have organized rallies, others demand that no Christian has the right to watch the movie, calling it a national betrayal of the Tsar… a second one.

Some overly zealous Christians even attempted to set fire to Uchitel’s studio in August.

Of course, Church officials immediately condemned the actions as irrational and wrong by Church leaders. Other Orthodox activists and organizations, despite their personal objections to "Matilda," have offered Uchitel workspace and personal protection from future vandalism attempts.

And despite the pushback from people who are now critiquing the Christian community for “limiting” the creative process and overstepping religious boundaries, the official Church has not made any official attempt to stop the release of the film. And Сhurch officials definitely discourage any extreme measures. 

Nevertheless, most Christian leaders suggest that it may indeed be better for believers to refrain from watching it, steering clear of the crude, and definitely Hollywood-ized, representation of Tsar Nicholas; not to participate in another attempt to sexualize and cheapen the image of a great, pious man. But instead of fanatical extremism, they ask people to focus on personal growth and prayer. 

But yes, they too are horrified by the video's wild inaccuracy and moreover, by its utter tactlessness. 

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