tsiskaridze: P E R S O N A L   P O S T So I fi…


P E R S O N A L   P O S T

So I finally watched the highly “controversial” “Mathilde” – the movie that, even before its theatrical release, caused scandal, demonstrations, public floggings and the kind of hysteria I usually find extremely amusing (especially when religious groups are involved) but which, in this case, caused me to experience a lot of second-hand embarrassment. 

To recap: 

In 2016 when the official trailer of the film which contained in particular erotic love scenes was released, representatives of the public movement “King’s Cross” found in the upcoming film a “distortion of historical events”, and an “anti-Russian and anti-religious provocation in the field of culture”. One cinema chain pulled out of showing the film after a group of self-described Orthodox militants threatened the film’s director and cinemas preparing to screen it.

After a request to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation State from the Duma deputy Natalia Poklonskaya known for her veneration of Nicholas II, the film’s material was audited and no violations were found. Chairman of the Duma committee on culture, film director Stanislav Govoruhin criticized the idea of checking the film, he expressed confidence that such scandalous initiatives should be “nipped right in the bud.” In the Kremlin, Poklonskaya’s request caused confusion and an uncertain delayed response. The Ministry of Culture of Russia said that the question of issuing certificates for rental of the film will be decided upon the completion of work on the picture.

Somewhat later in December 2016 it was reported that the prosecutor’s office will request the movie’s script for inspection at the request of deputy Poklonskaya.

In September 2017 Cinema Park and Formula Kino group, the Russia’s biggest cinema chain, cancelled screenings of the film due to “extreme actions by opponents of the film” and threats made against cinemas. They later reversed the decision. Two cars were torched outside the Moscow office of a lawyer acting for Alexey Uchitel, the director of the film.

Director of the office of the Russian Imperial House, Aleksandr Zakatov called the film “blasphemy”, but added that “such works should be condemned, but to inflate a scandal around them and make a formal ban does not make sense”. A similar position was taken by the Bishop of Egoryevsk Tihon (Shevkunov), who reviewed the film highly critically, but said that the demand to ban the film – “is an absolutely dead-end and wrong approach”.

… An admonition regarding right and wrong – this is the goal that can and must be put in connection with the forthcoming wide screening of the film.

Nevertheless, Bishop Tihon pointed out, “most likely, individuals and groups, including Orthodox, will demand its prohibition”

The film is “meh”. The controversy surrounding it was overblown to a ridiculous degree. I’m even tempted to think that maybe this was some sort of guerrilla marketing campaign (if it was, it was highly successful).

The film is beautiful but lacks substance. It’s also wildly historically inaccurate, which is something the director himself freely admits. “Mathilde” is a sort of historical fantasy, which is, in my opinion, it’s biggest failing. The story surrounding the Tsarevich’s affair with Mathilde, his subsequent marriage to Alix and the coronation, is interesting enough in its own right. 

I don’t care about religious fanatics being offended by this film, but I do care that history is being disrespected. This could’ve been a beautiful and profound historical drama. Instead, what we have is cheesy Lifetime-esque garbage.

d i s c l a i m e r