Reviewer: Shannon H.
Russian history has been rich, fascinating, and
sometimes questionable. It has had its good moments with
Peter the Great introducing Russia to Western society
and its bad moments with 72 years of Communism. Of
course, when one mentions Russian history who can forget
the Romanov dynasty, a royal family that ruled Russia
for over three centuries and ending in 1917 with the
Russian Revolution and the rise of Communism. The
Romanov family at the time was Tzar Nicholas II, his
wife Alexandra, and their five children. They were once
secure and powerful in their many palaces and homes but
when revolution erupted, they became mere citizens with
a grim future.
The story centers around Gregory Rasputin (Alan
Rickman), the so-called holy man who claims he has
mystical, spiritual powers given to him by God. Most
people dismiss him as a crazy transient but he soon
gains the trust and respect of a Russian Orthodox priest
who believes him. Rasputin is taken to the Winter Palace
in St. Petersburg, Russia where he is introduced to
Nicholas (Ian McKellen) and his wife Alexandra (Greta
Scacchi), who are busy praying for their little son,
Alexei. The poor lad is bedridden with an attack of
hemophilia, a hereditary disease that affects only males
(hemophilia prevents blood from clotting properly so
cuts and bruises could prove fatal). The genetic disease
does not affect females and has existed in the royal
family due to inbreeding. At first Nicholas is
indifferent to this crazy guy being in a room with his
wife and son, but allows him to stay at Alexandra's
Rasputin works his "magic" by chanting and praying and
soon Alexei's blood stops flowing and his life is saved.
Alexandra thanks Rasputin profusely and giving thanks to
God for bringing a holy man to save her son's life.
Nicholas also thanks Rasputin (under his breath as he's
still suspicious of him). The next morning Alexei is
seen standing at the window, completely alive and well.
At that point Rasputin is considered a welcomed guest in
the Romanov household. However, his image as a saint
becomes questionable as he spends time getting drunk and
sleeping with prostitutes (Rasputin believed that in
order to obtain salvation and closeness with God, one
has to sin, which is contradictory to Biblical Law). His
reputation as a ladies' man and debaucher get around
quickly and flyers start circulating around Russia
depicting Rasputin, the Tzar, and his wife in a
Since Rasputin is seen frequenting the Winter Palace
to save Alexei from bruises, nosebleeds, and cuts, some
Russian people start believing that he might be sleeping
with the Tzar's wife and their four daughters. The
Russian royal family refuses to admit as to why Rasputin
visits with them in the first place. They don't want the
Russian general public to believe that the heir to the
Russian throne has a fatal illness for fear they might
be seen as weak. After an incident causing some
witnesses to believe that Rasputin was carrying on an
affair with the Tzarina, Nicholas has finally had
enough. He rids his home of the unwanted guest and
starts to concentrate on Russia's part in the first
World War. When Rasputin left the Romanov household for
good, he made a "prophetic" prediction. If he is
murdered by commoners, the Romanovs will stay in power.
If he is murdered by members of the royal family, the
Tzar and his family will face a terrible demise.
The objectionable content truly merits an R rating.
The violence is moderate but the quality of it is
quite disturbing. While Nicholas is attending an
opera with his oldest daughter and some government
officials, a lone assassin kills the prime minister
with a single gunshot. The Romanov family meet their
gruesome demise in a shootout by Communist thugs.
Rasputin is shot at several times by Felix and his
friends. There are old clips of Russian soldiers in
battle during WWI, and some disturbing scenes that
are not violent but do contain blood. Alexei is seen
in bed a few times, twice with a nosebleed that
won't go away. The sexual content is also moderate
(most of it involves Rasputin; no surprise there).
Nicholas and his wife are seen giving "love pecks"
on each other's faces. Alexandra starts undoing her
husband's shirt collar while he does the same with
her robe (her bare shoulder is seen and the shot
breaks away quickly. Nothing else happens but
it is implied that they made love).
Rasputin is seen hanging out with a prostitute and
later he is glimpsed in bed with her (we only see
his bare chest and shoulders; the prostitute is
wearing a corset and undergarments). Rasputin is
also shown having sex with a close relative of
Alexandra, leaving some witnesses to believe that
he's sleeping with the Tzar's wife; both of them are
clothed during the act. In a bar joking with
friends, Rasputin drunkenly dances suggestively with
one of the bar girls and in the same scene exposes
himself to Felix Yusupov (who is angry at Rasputin's
drunken antics). Fortunately, nothing is shown. This
film is a much more accurate but objectionable
version of Nicholas and Alexandra. It's
shorter, too but I'd much rather sit and watch two
full video cassettes of that mediocre 1971 period
piece than Rasputin. I used to watch it a lot
before I was saved. Now that I know better, I refuse
to watch it anymore.
It's a good movie but it still needs work on the script and the dialogue.
Spiritually speaking, it's a mess -- and that's an understatement.
Rasputin's idea of salvation is contradictory with the Bible. Sinning only
brings us further away from God and the only way to have a relationship with
Him is to accept Christ. His hedonistic lifestyle only brings him further
away from true, spiritual fulfillment. Nicholas and his family pray on a
regular basis, which is good, but Alexandra believes that God punished her
by giving her son Alexei hemophilia. This is not true. God does not punish
people with disease and disasters anymore (that was back in the Old
Testament) because of Christ's Resurrection and ascension into Heaven. I
would not advise any Christian to see this. It's a great movie but is bogged
down by excess sexual content. Plus, it also might "traumatize" any fans of
the Harry Potter movies by seeing Professor Snape as a drunken