August 23, 2010
Tzar is a movie that cannot boast "no animals were harmed in making this movie" as the opening features beheading live chickens with swords and prolonged shots of headless chooks flailing around. And this is a big clue for what is to follow. Lots of violence and cruelty. Ivan is afraid of his own shadow, has surrounded himself with similar merciless people and is looking desperately for approval from God. The little simple girl that is dragged or wanders into the proceedings is a symbol of how much Tzar is concerned about his people. Like a little curio, a little living doll, she is a frail figure, pitted against a wall of indifference and fear, terrible, all consuming fear.
It's a lavish production with great eye to detail - the skin of faces is dull and rough, unwashed hair and like. Costumes are rich although camera lingers too much on wolves heads, tied onto saddles of Ivan's murderous entourage. The bear is scary but nature is beautiful. The grittiness is akin to Andrei Rublyov.
The overall impression is of that of brutality and superstition. It's also a bit predictable. You know Ivan is going to betray his best friend, you know that the church is going to burn.
This movie leaves strong emotional impression and some scenes that will linger in your minds eye. No intellectual input required.