His Dark Materials
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Sweeping historical epics focusing on royalty were popular in the 1970s what with the success of Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Cromwell (1970) and Edward the King (1975). Of this wave of films Nicholas and Alexandra was possibly the most successful as it earned a Best Picture nomination and earned $7 million at the box office. Watching the film it is easy to see why as it takes dense historical events and crafts an entertaining narrative around them with room for beautiful costumes and wholly committed performances. Director Franklin J. Schaffner, responsible for Patton (1970) which I did not like, proves himself capable of pulling together a production on this scale and screenwriter James Goldman, responsible for the stodgy The Lion in Winter (1968), adds depth and subtlety to the lengthy tragedy.
Russian tsar Nicholas Romanov, Michael Jayston, is a weak and incompetent leader who chooses to go ahead with the Russo-Japanese War despite being warned against it by advisors in an attempt to assert himself. Romanov's wife Alexandra, Janet Suzman, gives birth to hemophiliac son, Alexei, Roderic Noble, and comes to rely on fake healer Rasputin, Tom Baker, while she is viewed by the public as holding undue influence over her husband. Uprisings occur around the nation as the citizens experience the effects of poor leadership and millions of men die fighting a losing battle. The Romanovs are shocked when Nicholas is forced to abdicate and struggle to adjust to life in Siberia after they have been removed from a position of power. Eventually it is decided that the family will be executed and Nicholas and Alexandra affirm their love for another in their final days.
Alexandra is the character who anchors the film as her ignorance and belief that her son's wellbeing is the most important issue her family faces is representative of all that was wrong with the Russian monarchy while also displaying their fragile humanity. She is haughty and often unlikable with her attempts to control her husband and idiotic decision to take on the obviously manipulative Rasputin but Suzman makes us believe in her pain. In every moment we understand that this a woman holding a very heavy burden and the laser focus with which she approached tending to her son is admirable. Other than one rather ridiculous and unnecessary moment in which she yells "Oh my God!" Suzman's line deliveries were pitch perfect with the imperious British accent and bitter intonation are in line with what we imagine an entitled, out of touch but vulnerable woman to be.
The incorporation of other wider issues into the story was also handled well as the Russian Revolution is displayed simply and all of the major players are introduced without taking away from the family we focus upon. Centrally this is a film that wants to be a tragedy about a family murdered because of the position they were born into. While the Romanovs were not good leaders and allowed millions to suffer this was in large part driven by the system they stepped into and their disconnect from real people leaves them poorly equipped to deal with the demands made of them. Through their children, especially their four daughters, we recognize the naiveté and innocence that members of the royal family hold and their attempts at ignorance towards the idea that they could ever be executed. They have lost any prospect of even understanding why they should be guilty when they are brutally murdered and while they deal with all of their personal grievances before dying their innocent children do not get the futures they deserved.
The screenplay does not have the problems of The Lion in Winter as it does not attempt to be ‘witty' and instead spends time fleshing out the complex relationships between characters. For those who enjoy films like Becket (1964), The House of Rothschild (1934) and Dodsworth (1936) they will certainly find something of interest in this sumptuous costume drama. Beyond the obvious beauty of the technical elements of the film, the sets are immaculately constructed, this is a movie that does have something to say about the humanity of powerful figures and the unfairness of punishing them. No, it doesn't push boundaries in the way that A Clockwork Orange (1971) did but it is an exceptionally well made costume drama and those are surprisingly rare.
I will go as high in ranking on this as 3 1/2 stars only because it dares to be what the early 70’s lacked.. high style epic movie making. So it asks you to be patient... so what? Its beautifully done with great performances. I will sit through this many times before subjecting myself to that year’s ‘classic’ A Clockwork Orange’ anytime.
Great moments for little People
Nicolás y Alejandra 
Nicholas (Michael Jayston) and Alexandra (Janet Suzman) covers the fall of the Russian Romanovs. The film begins with a high note, with the Czar learning he is to finally have a son to his heir after having 4 daughters previously. He then tries to balance the rising Bolsheviks, an influential Rasputin and millions of starving families. His decisions lead to the deaths of millions as he tries to censor the people and execute all those who oppose him. Things get worse when he finds that his son has hemophilia and war is upon them. All the things the Czar had to balance is really quite something and he is eventually overthrown for his decisions. The second part of the film is really quite powerful, as you begin to sympathize and worry for the life and family that was known to be so cruel in the first half of the film. They struggle to survive as they are treated banished from Saint Petersburg and sent to Siberia. Nicholas and Alexandra as an epic film that covers one of the most interesting times in Russian history. The film runs long, but trying to cover the scope of all this time in 3 hours must not have been easy either. Excellent custom designs, acting and characters made this time piece feel alive and it sets a standard for historical biopics.
Excellent, and incredibly true to history.
I thought it was a great ending. They really added a lot of suspense to the death scene. I also really liked the costumes and the sets. Nicholas was kind of difficult to take seriously because he made ridiculously over-the-top faces when he was angered or disturbed by something and I just thought it was a little peculiar.
Historically accurate, as long as the Romanov Dynasty itself, Epic in scale, great subject matter, a lot of information to absorb, watch on a long Sunday afternoon, the end will rip your heart out.
Epic, believable, yet not endearing. No real story kept me interested in this film besides the history, the magnificence of Russian monarchists, and the actual portrayal of Lenin and Trotsky. But even that was rather bland and slow. Beautifully shot locations, but then there were some poor sets.
Excellent acting although a bit over dramatic and a thrilling conclusion