In Russia the Culture War has resumed in earnest, this time over a film, which very few people have seen yet. The film, of course, is “Matilda“, by director Alexei Efimovich Uchitel. To add even more piquancy to the ensuing political and cultural/religious war, Uchitel is Jewish – gasp! If this were an ALT-Rightie blog, then I would have had to encase his name with a series of parentheses (((()))) just so!
Uchitel’s historical biopic is scheduled for mass release in October. The film stars Polish actress Michalina Olszańska in the title role of ballerina Matilda Kschessinska; along with German actor Lars Eidinger as Tsar Nicholas II, who was a great fan of classical ballet. Me, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, but I’ll probably wait till it comes out on DVD. I hope it includes a lot of ballet sequences, because I like ballet too.
Anyhow, the film ignited a huge controversy and culture war in Russia. Now even the Chechens have gotten involved, with Ramzan Kadyrov calling for the film to be banned in his region. And by the way, what’s up with Muslims and movies? Are they even allowed to watch any movies? Given that the Muslim religion forbids the portrayals of human beings in any art form. At least, from what I heard.
Here is the “Matilda” backstory, in brief: Natalia Poklonskaya –hero of Crimean Reunification, Russian Duma Deputy and all-round cutie-pie, had launched a campaign to ban the film before it even came out. Poklonskaya is an ardent Monarchist — that’s not name-calling, it is actually her political ideology: She worships (literally) Saint Tsar Nicholas II in particular, even over all the other Romanovs, including my personal favorite, Peter the Great. Natasha hates the Bolsheviks for mudering her hero, and she works tirelessly to restore the Romanovs to the throne of Russia. Who knows? in this crazy world it could happen, maybe, after President Putin retires.
But who would be the new Tsar? Despite the best efforts of the Russian Revolutionaries, during those heady days of 1918, when they attempted to exterminate the entire nest, it seems a few stray Romanovs did survive, and I’m not talking about Disney’s Anastasia, along with her singing mice. No, there are actual contenders for this Game of Thrones. Including some guy who calls himself “His Grand Duke George Mikhailovich“. Georgy is noted for his slicked-back hair-do, his pudgy build, and he even comes complete with his own Queen-Mom, reputed to be a ghastly brick, with a personality reminiscent of Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Agatha. This family plots incessantly to return to the Russian throne, and they even got some traction when Russian ex-President Yeltsin took the young “Tsarevich” under his wing.
Tsar Boris the Drunk is dead, may his Liver rest in peace, but nowadays Georgy and his Dowager Mom enjoy the fanatic support of Prosecutie Poklonskaya. Natasha loves the Romanovs so much, even fake Romanovs, that she believes the statue of Tsar Nicholas weeps oily tears of sadness for his martyred nation: “Ah, if only my soldiers had fought harder at Baranovichi…”
And Speaking of Martyrdom…
All of this would just be sheer funny if it were not the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church got involved in what should have been a purely political conflict — Communists vs Monarchists. As always taking the side of the Rich And Powerful, the Church came out soundly on the side of the Monarchists. They canonized the Tsar and his entire family, first in 1981 (by the Church in exile), and then again in 2000 (by the Church, now back in power under Putin). By canonizing these Moochers (i.e., making them Saints), the Church did a really sneaky thing. They made it very difficult for Socialists and Believers to co-exist in the same political space.
And they also provided ammunition to those who attempt to ban any criticism of Nicholas II; and to ban the works of those artists, like Uchitel, who seek to portray the Tsar as anything other than a Holy Saint with a halo over his head. Never mind that Nicky deserves no Hagiographer. Nicky was nothing like Saint King Wenceslas, who totally deserved Sainthood: Wenceslas struggled through a raging blizzard to deliver Christmas dinner to a beggar. Nickie never did anything like that. He was just an ordinary guy who liked ballet and kept mistresses. He was an incompetent ruler who dragged Russia into a war she could not win. Why, then, must we kiss his oily tears and genuflect to his distant greasy-haired descendants…?
The recent fracas began this past Tuesday, when the movie theaters in Simferopol (Crimea) received threatening letters from their local Prosecutor, Alexander Shkitov. Shkitov, who was responding to a complaint by Natalia Poklonskaya, warned the managers of Simferpol movie theaters very sternly not to show trailers for Matilda. The film, he said, contains explosive content and extremist ideas; while also grossly insulting the feelings of Orthodox believers.
One of the movie theaters (Kino Shevchenko) forwarded Shkitov’s letter to Konstanin Dobrynin, attorney to Film Director Alexei Uchitel. Dobrynin/Uchitel raised a stink about this and complained up the chain of command. Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky has subsequently called this whole affair a “circus”. On Medinsky’s instructions, the higher-ranking Prosecutor of Crimea announced that he was investigating Shkitov, maybe the latter overstepped his authority. Medinsky snapped that Russia has more than enough domestic issues to focus on, without obsessing about some movie trailer.
[to be continued]