"Definitely the best film about this notorious man in Russian history. Contrary to cheesy Hollywood versions portraying the monster opposite some youths in love, this film takes you to the reality of Russian ruling class in the early years of XX century. It is not about one person, it shows the agony of the whole system at the dawn of the October 1917 revolution. The Tzar with his weaknesses, the nobles with their arrogance and uselessness, the bureaucrats with their greed; and amongst them all, this strange and horrific figure who appeared out of nowhere as some kind of evil genius or, maybe, a personification of all Russian folk. The film creates incredibly authentic atmosphere of the time, focusing mostly on macabre side(considering the subject). The acting is absolutely superb."
One of the most unheralded Russian films ever....
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 04/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the greatest Russian films ever made, but it's not particularly well known in this country, even in cinema circles. It's directed by Elem Kilmov, who directed the masterful Come and See. The film is excellent for many reasons. One, it gives a very well rounded portrait of the Russian monarchy at the time, and the complete chaos in the house of Nicholas II (and Russia during his reign). Second, the portrayal of Rasputin here is amazing (by Alexi Pentrenko), and extremely accurate. He was a very unkept man, but he had amazing charisma and he had carte blanche in the household of Nicholas II (which he abused regularly). There are some wicked surreal touches that really make this film extraordinary. As an added bonus, this is the widescreen, uncut version. When the film made it to the states, the film was cut by 35 minutes. Previous VHS versions were also pan and scan, which butchered Kilmov's widescreen compositions. The film had difficulty in the USSR as well, because the Soviet censors felt that Kilmov was too sympathetic towards Nicholas II. It was made in 1974, but wasn't officially released until 1985. This is a great Russian film, one of the best portrayals of Rasputin and the fall of Nicholas II."
Alex Beere | 09/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is fantastic. If you're familiar with some of Klimov's other works you'll understand his knack for twisting the psyche of his audience with tormenting visions and macabre sound arrangements, and this film will certianly please you, if insanity is what you like. I find his movies must be watched several times to absorb their rich visual explosion fully, and I particularly love the use of stock footage of various stages of Russion history to better describe the plot and that which is going on surrounding the main characters. This movie is also hugely accurate and displays the true human existence behind the figures involved as it is rarely told. A must see, as the cliche goes."
Ted Byrd | 02/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This vivid reenactment of the career of the "mad monk" Rasputin as counselor to the family of Czar Nicholas packs a lot of punch, both for the senses and the intellect. The visual imagery is truly astonishing, the acting couldn't be better, and the soundtrack is laden with all sorts of startling and disturbing audio stimuli that keep you from ever becoming complacent about any scene. This movie seems so authentic that the numerous vintage reels of the actual times which are inserted into the action seem to blend in perfectly. These old shots of the nobility, street scenes, riots, and military operations lend a powerful emphasis and confirmation to the enactment. Because Klimov made the film during the Soviet era, it might be easy to conclude that it contains a strong ideological or propagandistic element, but I didn't find it so. In fact, I almost suspect that like some other great Soviet film-makers(Kosintzev and Tarkovsky, to name a couple)Klimov may have achieved such an outstanding work by the very fact of having his ingenuity challenged to the utmost by the repressive censorship of the time. Czar Nicholas is actually portrayed in a sympathetic light. He was the sort of mild mannered person who would have no doubt made a pleasant neighbor had he been an everyday businessman or professional. More than anything else he was concerned about the welfare of his family. But with the influence of the czarina, a neurotic religious fanatic, intruding into affairs of state, it is shown how even a well-meaning pleasant individual can inflict untold suffering on millions if he is both weak and in supreme command. Rasputin is the real criminal of this story, manipulating the extreme religiosity of the czarina for his own personal gain. According to this version, what he wanted to gain was simply enough power so that he could indulge all of his desires for self-gratification and debauchery. He is portrayed as a true monster, charismatic and creepy, with no pity for his victims or remorse for his crimes. We see here , I think, not an ideological concept, but a study in the mystery of evil, how it can arise from such humble origins and through its sheer intensity and audacity attain dominance over throngs of more ordinary mortals. However, I believe that this film should probably not be looked to as a completely accurate or definitive commentary on the true nature of Rasputin, but more as an artistic creation. If you are mostly interested in a historically accurate account, it would probably be wise to do further research, because there has likely been artistic license taken. There are some allusions, primarily in the brief voice-over at the beginning and end of the film as to how the end of the monarchy marked a new beginning for Russia, but on the whole, I don't think we see much window-dressing to please the censors. This, and the somewhat sympathetic portrayal of the czar, as I've read elsewhere, earned "Agony" a low rating and a limited showing in Russia when it was released. I highly recommend this film as a work of art, not in the sense of being "artsy", but in the sense of profoundly affecting mind and senses in a manner similar to great paintings and music. The original movie was about 45 minutes longer, and I've read one critic who claims that this shorter version is a "bowdlerized " one. Unfortunately, it looks as if the longer version is only available without subtitles at this time."
Donald N. Weed | SAN ANTONIO, TX USA | 12/22/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I found this video to be some what vague, with attempts by the makers to interject bits and pieces of historical film footage just to extend the length of the story, not to enhanced the understanding of Rasputin tremendous influence over the Czar family.I expected a more dramatic effect from the acting and direction to help non-speakers of the Russian language to better understand his historical role.One can get more information by checking out the web sites on the biography of Rasputin."