Mental patient Timofeyev (McDowell, twitchy and grizzled) is convinced that he assassinated Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and that he also led the firing squad that executed Nicholas II and his family in 1918. Dr Smirnov (Yankovsky) concludes that the only way to treat Timofeyev is to enter his fantasies, and so he starts playing Tsar to his patient's executioner. Before long, present and past are blurring together and we're on a full-dress reconstruction of the last weeks of the Romanov dynasty. About halfway through this lugubrious Anglo-Russian co-production, it dawns that the film is bending over backwards to avoid being seen as just another costume-drama plod through the Kremlin's secret files. Big mistake. The historical scenes are actually credible, dignified and rather watchable, whereas the implied parallel with the collapse of the USSR doesn't begin to cohere. And the whole mental-hospital framework is a hugely tautologous way of saying that these are unhealed wounds from the past. Hard to recommend except as an oddity.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Aleksandr Borodianski, Karen Shakhnazarov|