Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nicholas and Alexandra

The 1971 nominees for best picture included one old mainstay of the past, Fiddler on the Roof, but also three films that seem to suggest the new wave of film making with The French Connection, The Last Picture Show and A Clockwork Orange. The fifth nominee though might seem to some to fit the old style historical drama, something for the real old timers in the Academy, with Nicholas and Alexandra about the life of the last Russian Tsar. That wouldn't be quite the right view. It is true this is a historical drama, but as a film it feels very modern, well at least for 1971 anyways. The film offers no revisions or romantic view of the royals, it instead decides to give us the blunt story. It is of course grand in scope, with an expected focus on the production design and costume, but those do not cover the drama of the real story. The film covers the various events yet is careful to examine it closely by showing the titular pair as real people, flaws and all. In fact it actually has a rather compelling approach to show almost how the world outside of the family, makes them worse as they attempt to maintain power. It may not focus on every single detail but it does not simplify the politics. Of course this could just be a stagy, more historically accurate film, but that's not the case either. Franklin J. Schaffner grants the film some of what you may expect but also subverts your expectations as well. There are the occasional moments of style that are very effective particularly the former prime minster Witte(Laurence Olivier)'s somber reflection on the state of Russian or the downright brilliant staging of the assassination of Rasputin. It is largely a captivating film which does not shy away, for the most part, of the brutal truths of the story.

No comments: