Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Rasputin' Debuts on HBO

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Rasputin' Debuts on HBO

Article excerpt

It may be the strangest story of the 20th century, this tale of

the dirty Siberian peasant who became the intimate adviser to

one of the most powerful families on Earth, helping trigger the

Russian Revolution.

The peasant was Grigori Rasputin, self-proclaimed holy man,

charismatic faith healer, "the mad monk of Russia." By

ingratiating himself with Tsarina Alexandra, wife of Russia's

absolute monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, and mother of the heir to

the throne, Tsarevich Alexei, Rasputin helped bring down the

300year-old Romanov dynasty and pave the way for seven decades

of Soviet Communist rule.

He did not live to see the fall of the Romanovs, dying at the

hands of assassins in 1916. But he foretold the Romanov fate,

predicting that if he should fall victim to an assassination,

Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children would die, within

two years, at the hands of the Russian people. That is precisely

what happened.

Rasputin's story has been told often, though usually as a

subplot interwoven into both fictional and documentary

treatments of the fall of the Romanovs and the rise of

Bolshevism.

HBO's original movie Rasputin , which debuts tomorrow at 9

p.m., puts the mad monk at its center, casting the marvelous

British actor Alan Rickman as the peasant who became, at least

in rumor and legend, the uncrowned ruler of Russia. His

outrageous public behaviour and swaggering claims of his

influence and importance helped undermine whatever credibility

the weak Nicholas possessed and alienate even his most loyal

supporters.

The movie manages to help explain the seemingly unexplainable:

How could a hygienically-challenged, disreputable,

hard-drinking, sexually profligate peasant in a highly

class-conscious society somehow become an intimate of the royal

family?

It was, the movie suggests, somewhat ambivalently, because, for

all his outrageous behavior, Rasputin was not a fraud. …

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