«Romanovs. The Imperial Family» 2000
2000 /Russia/135 min/Vera Film, Federal agency of culture and cinematography
Director – Gleb Panfilov
Alexander Galibin – Emperor Nicholas II
Format – 35mm/ DVD
Rights for theatrical and DVD distribution – VGTRK ‘Russia’, exclusive sales agent “Vera Films”
The story of the tragic death of the last Russian Emperor and his family unravels during the period from February 1917 to July 1918. Nicholas II never had a personal desire to be in power, but became an Emperor due to the laws of succession to the throne. Being a complete stranger to the idea of revolution, he involuntary became its co-author. This is the essence of his personal tragedy, which became a tragedy of his family and his people. However, he has found his genuine greatness as a simple family man, once the burden of power was off.
About the film
The idea of making a film about the last Russian Tsar and his family came to Panfilov while he was on location in Nizhny Novgorod, filming Mother, though as the director admits he’d been haunted by this story for many years.
His very first feature film has an episode where the protagonist Tanya Tetkina learns about the death of the Imperial family. Growing up in Sverdlovsk, Panfilov was always aware of the story which happened to the last family that lived in the Ipatiev house. But it was not until the shoot in Nizhny Novgorod that Panfilov came across a book by Nikolai Sokolov “The murder of the Imperial family”(1925). Sokolov was an investigator, who under the order of Alexander Kolchak, conducted the first research of the circumstances surrounding the murder of the imperial family.
In November 1987, while working on his film Mother, Panfilov signs the contract for the screenplay. After two years of careful study of the semi-legal materials about the death of the Romanov family, the group of screenwriters ( Panfilov, Churikova, and their son, Ivan) complete the script. The story traces the journey of Romanovs from the forced abdication of Nicholas II in February 1917 to their execution in the Ipatiev’s house in July 1918. However, the scriptwriters where interested not only in the political circumstances, but also taking the chance to tell, for the first time, the story of the personal relationships within the imperial family.
— Maxim Medvedev, “Cinema and Context”, VI, “Séance”, 2004
“The crown the family wears is not just that of the Romanov dynasty. It is also the halo of sainthood, and Panfilov seems to have made his entire film in the expectation that the family would be canonized, as indeed happened last year. Panfilov may have wanted to make his Romanovs saints, but the film’s greater success lies in the more modest task of making them human. Soviet historians painted Nicholas as an autocrat with blood on his hands, while others depict him as an ineffectual ruler or a martyr-Tsar. Panfilov makes him a good father and decent man with a loving family and an indecent fate.”
— Tara Warner, “The Russian Journal”, 2001
“Each mise-en-scene, each montage sequence is carefully composed by a confident directorial hand. Each details, each angle, each intonation is utilised for an ethic rather than an aesthetic purpose.”
— Elena Gracheva, “Cinema and Context”, VI, “Séance”, 2004
“What we see is a true historical tragedy. Morever, it is a tragedy of the Shakespearian scope. However, it is performed in a different register – in the register of a quite Chekhovian drama […] Nicholas Romanov is also a Chekhovian character, who by the stroke of fate is forced to play a different part, disproportionate with his human abilities”
— Alexander Troshin, “Kinovedcheskie Zapiski”
Creators about the film
Gleb Panfilov – director, script writer
“A film about love with a concrete historical context and a precise material surroundings. […] We wanted to study the characters of the Emperor, his wife and his children. The majority of the viewers are most likely to be familiar with their story, but what one does not know is what type of people those characters really were. We hope, that after seeing our film the audiences will be able to say: “Now we know, what has really happened!”.
“I didn’t want to make a large-scale film. Romanovs…was initially conceived as a small chamber film about the imperial family. It is a story told by a person who was connected to the family during their last days, who has followed them there from a certain moment in their lives. And, in a way, this was a fresh idea, because up until then, our angle of perception came from the opposite side of the barricades. There were so many biased and preconceived opinions expressed about the Tsar, his family and especially his wife, that the entire generation grew up believing those to be true.
And I thought it was extremely important to depict the events, following the imperial family, demonstrating what this family was like – the children, the wife and the husband – what were their relationships like. And we tried our best to portray the story truthfully.”
“Watch some of my films again in the chronological order of their narrative events. First Mother, then Vassa, then No Path through Fire and finally The Romanovs…And you will see, that my opinion has not changed with time. My first film has an episode where Tanya Tetkina hears about the murder of the imperial family. It just took me some thirty years to approach this tragedy directly”