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Controversial 'Matilda' film cleared for release in Russia

August 11, 2017

Monarchist and religious groups wanted "Matilda" banned, but the film highlighting an affair between Czar Nicholas II and a ballerina, has now officially been approved for release in Russia in October.

Deutschland Film "Matilda" von Alexei Utschitel
Image: Rock Film

The Russian Culture Ministry announced on Thursday (11.08.2017) that "Matilda" will be screened beginning October 25.

Protests against the film have been spearheaded in recent months by religious activists, monarchist groupings with Russian parliamentarian Natalia Poklonskaya as a prominent spokesperson, and even the predominantly Muslim regions of Chechnya and Dagestan.

Read more: Russia threatens to forbid 'Matilda,' a film about Tsar Nikolai II's love life

Including mildly racy scenes, "Matilda," starring German actor Lars Eidinger, is based on a historically verified episode: Before becoming the last Russian Czar, Nicholas II had a romance with Mathilde Kschessinska, a Polish ballerina.

Nicholas II and his family were assassinated in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. Shortly afterward, in 1918, the Russian Orthodox Church declared Nicholas and his family holy saints and martyrs.

Although the official stance of the Church has been to steer clear of the controversy, religious, nationalist and conservative protestors have demanded that Nicholas II be shown only as a figure that is holy and "untouchable."

Bearing icons showing the royal family, several hundred people, including Cossacks and Orthodox activists, held a public prayer against the film outside a Moscow church last week.

Director Alexei Uchitel has been repeatedly investigated by state's attorneys sent by MP Poklonskaya. Resisting calls to alter his work, Uchitel said he hopes for an Oscar nomination.

Read more: Russia threatens to forbid 'Matilda,' a film about Tsar Nikolai II's love life

Apart from its depiction of a figure considered a deity in wide sectors of Russian society, the film seems to have reignited a debate about Russian values in contrast to Western decadence.

By permitting the film to be shown nationwide, state authorities took a more liberal stance. Vyacheslav Telnov, head of the Culture Ministry's film division, conceded, however, that local or regional authorities may make their own decisions on whether to screen it.

rf/kbm (dpa, AFP)