Moscow, September 12, 2017
While the film Mathilde, which has proven to be extremely controversial in Russian society, is set to be released in October, it already had a screening in Vladivostok last Tuesday. A second screening was scheduled for a Moscow theater on Monday, but ended up being canceled the same day, reports The Guardian.
The film focuses on the life of ballerina Mathilde Kschessinkaya and her romance with the future tsar and Royal Martyr Nicholas II before his marriage to Tsarina Alexandra. Director Alexei Uchitel’s work has caused a heartfelt stir over its historical inaccuracies, portraying the tsar as unfaithful to his wife, and the tsarina as unfaithful to Orthodoxy, the inappropriate portrayal of the holy tsar in intimate scenes, and the choice of German actor Lars Eidinger in the role of Tsar Nicholas who has previously appeared in pornographic films. Many have also noted that the film is being released, many believe not coincidentally, in the year of the centenary of Tsar Nicholas' abdication, on the eve of the centenary of the Royal Family's martyrdom.
Producers had planned to screen the film in the capital city of Moscow on the day that Orthodox Christians throughout the city and country were celebrating the Beheading of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John, which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can serve for believers as an indication of and parallel to the film’s blasphemy for the sake of entertainment. As Orthodox Christians know, St. John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod who had made a promise to his to his step-daughter after she entertained and pleased the ruler with licentious dance. The girl asked for the prophet’s head on a platter after consulting with her mother Herodias, who hated St. John because he had condemned her iniquitous marriage to Herod, as she had previously been his brother Philip’s wife.
According to Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), who previewed the film at Uchitel’s request, Mathilde likewise opens with a scene of a ruler, a dancer, and licentious pleasure. “This ballerina (Mathilde Kschessinkaya—Ed.) is running around the stage of the Mariisnky Theatre. Her bodice breaks, and her bare breasts are exposed. Here she is running with her bare breasts, the heir is sitting in the Royal Box, and suddenly he excitedly jumps up from his chair,” His Eminence explained, according to RIA-Novosti. “With this vulgarity the film begins, and so it continues,” he added.
“I can say nothing good about your film” Met. Hilarion told Uchitel.
Further, the film portrays the Royal Martyr Nicholas, even after marriage, as being torn in a love triangle between the Royal Martyr Alexandra and the ballerina Mathilde, much as Herodias was involved in an illicit triangle, having married two brothers. Speaking on this point, His Grace Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), has asked rhetorically, “Why do they make audiences believe in the historicity of these contrived heartbreaking scenes of a ‘love triangle’ in which Nicholas, both before and after marriage, is melodramatically torn between Mathilde and Alexandra?” adding, “What is that? The author’s vision? No—it is slander against real people.”
While the film depicts an ongoing relationship with the ballerina even after Nicholas’ marriage to Alexandra, Romanov Imperial House representative Alexander Zakatov notes that from the diaries of Nicholas II, his correspondences with Alexandra, the memoirs of Mathilde Kschessinskaya, and a number of other authentic and reliable sources, it is known that the then-tsarevich’s relationship with the dancer ended in 1894, when the decision was made to marry the future Tsarina Alexandra. According to Zakatov, the 1892-1894 relationship is used as a springboard for “groundless fantasies, capable of harming the good name of the holy royal Passion-bearers and of Mathilde Felixovna Kschessinskaya in the public mind.”
Bp. Tikhon has elsewhere referred to the film as a “vulgar fraud” and “slander,” belonging to the fantasy genre, and stated that he was “horrified” and “outraged” by the trailer for the film.
As the Guardian reports, the Monday screening was canceled after two cars parked outside the law firm that represents Uchitel’s film studio were set ablaze by suspected Orthodox radicals, with a note reading, “Burn for Matilda” left at the scene. The Vladivostok screening had been delayed due to a fake bomb threat. A few other such incidents have also occurred recently in Ekaterinburg and St. Petersburg.
These acts have been largely blamed on so-called “Orthodox radicals” by the media, but the Church has unequivocally condemned such acts, reports Interfax-Religion. “We have condemned, we do condemn, and we will condemn the actions of pseudo-religious radicals, whatever religion they may have invoked,” stated Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society and the Mass Media. “No believer would get the idea to express his disagreement with something in ways that are dangerous for the life and health of innocent people,” he added.
State Deputy Duma Natalia Poklonskaya, who has been very vocal and active in the movement against the film Mathilde, has likewise condemned such actions, calling for the incident of the burning cars to be carefully investigated. Alexander Kormukhin, leader of the Orthodox youth movement Sorok Sorokov, which Lawyer Konstantin Dobrynin tentatively blamed for the burning cars, has also stated, “We, like all believers, do not accept violence as a way to solve problems and we condemn the actions of pseudo-religious radicals who are willing to threaten people’s life, health, and property.
The film’s premiere is set for October 6 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, with general release slated for late October. Meanwhile, work on a documentary film “Mathilde's Lies,” directed by Sergei Aliev, has begun, to “debunk the myths” surrounding the historical personality of Tsar Nicholas II.