Agony: The Life and Death of Rasputin (1981)

 

 

 

Director:     Elem Klimov.

Starring:      Aleksei Petrenko (Grigori Rasputin),  Anatoli Romashin (Nicholas II),  Velta Line (Aleksandra Fyodorovna),  Alisa Frejndlikh (Vyrubova),  Aleksandr Romantsov (Yusupov),  Yuri Katin-Yartsev (Purishkevich),  Leonid Bronevoy (Manasevich-Manuilov),  Pavel Pankov (Manus),  Mikhail Danilov (Andronnikov),  Mikhail Svetin (Terekhov),  Nelli Pshyonnaya (Baroness),  Aleksei Vanin,  Lyudmila Polyakova,  Olga Grigoryeva,  Boris Romanov (Balashov),  Sergei Muchenikov (Dmitri Pavlovich),  Aleksandr Pavlov (Sukhotin),  Baiten Omarov (Badmayev),  Pyotr Arzhanov,  Vladimir Osenev (Shturmer).

very good Russian film on the fall of Rasputin and the Russian monarchy

 

Spoiler warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

 

Part I. 

"The first revolution and the counter-revolutionary era of 1907-1914 that followed revealed the core of monarchy and led it to the breaking point by showing the rot, vileness, cynicism and debauchery of the Czarist clique with its monster Rasputin heading it."    V. I. Lenin, Letters from Afar

1916, Russia.  "The Russian Empire is the state located at the huge territory of Europe and Asia.  With a population of 170 million it is the largest monarchy in the world.  It's the peasant country with a mediocre industry.  It is the birthplace of great poets, authors, scientists and revolutionaries.  Two-thirds of the populace are illiterate.  It is a country of glaring social contrasts, the tyranny of bureaucracy and censorship, the total disregard of human rights.  World War I revealed the insolvency of the state machine and increased all internal controversies.  After failed combat, Poland, Lithuania, a part of Latvia and Byelorussia were ceded.  The army didn't have enough ammo.  The fuel shortages paralyzed the transport.  All attempts to eliminate the food crisis led to nothing.  The black market erupted, with speculation, corruption and embezzlement.  The state debt amounted to 51 billion in gold rubles.  Russia owed to France, England, the US, Belgium and others.  There was a real threat of losing economic independence to be followed shortly by yielding the political one.  The situation was grave.  A radical shift in Russian history approached.  It also meant changes for the rest of the world.'

 

The Tsar is painting a portrait of flowers in a vase while out in the snow and ice others are ice skating.  The State Duma chairman tells Tsar Nicholas II he will resign his post, if Nicholas expresses a word of criticism about him.  The Tsar says:  "God forbid, Mikhail Vladimirovich."  Mikhail urges the Tsar to save himself.  Russia is facing " huge events with unforeseeable results".  He adds:  "What your government and yourself do irritates the populace so much that anything's possible."  Mikhail also tells the Tsar to banish Rasputin because many people say the man has too much influence over the royal family.  Nicholas takes the stance that ". . . my family matters don't concern them."   So Mikhail shows him some political cartoons with Rasputin drinking beer with the Tsarina on his lap, while the Tsar seems oblivious of the situation.  Nicholas walks away saying:  "My people love me."

Today is the celebration of 300 years of Romanov rule over Russia.  Over the years the family had many upheavals:  peasants' revolts headed by Razin and Pugachyov; the Decembrists' Putsch, the People's Will movement and the 1905 revolution.  But the royal family has never thought that the situation would be seen as hopeless as the present royal family thinks it is. 

I. F. Manasevich -- Manuylov, journalist, I. L. Goremykin, prime minister and A. A. Vyrubova, an old friend to the royal family, walk and talk.  The Tsarina Anna Alexandrovna tells Ivan Fyodorovich that it is hopeless.  But Ivan says if Voyeykov wants to give his soldiers mineral water to drink, he should provide it out of his own funds, not the government's funds.  But apparently a fellow named Grigory Yefimych Rasputin promised the general that the water would be provided.

The old man gets a call from Rasputin in the middle of the night.  Rasputin is upset about the old man's opposition to delivering the mineral water to the general.  The old man gets very nervous and upset getting a call from the infamous Rasputin.  He scolds the religious man for calling him at this hour and hangs up on him. 

Rasputin was born in 1868 in Pokrovsky village, Tobolsk Province.  He started drinking at the age of 15 and got in fights and various scandals.  The local courts convicted him twice and he was lashed.  Very unexpectedly, at the age of 27 he suddenly became a wandering preacher.  A rumor of the prophet and healer reached far and wide.  Soon afterwards, he appeared among royal circles.  Many aristocratic circles entertained him and he finally made his way to the palace.  Over the years he gained great political influence. 

Alexey N. Kvostov, Minister of the Interior, tells the Tsar that in the year 1915 there were 928 strikes and more than half a million people participated in the strikes.  213 of the strikes had a political overtone, namely revolution.   The minister wants the Tsar to take drastic measures against these forces, including the disbandment of the Duma.  But a different minister says the Tsar has to give the people some concessions.  Other news is that 1.5 million men have deserted from the army.  The Tsar quietly leaves the meeting. 

With his family he finds Rasputin singing over the body of the royal son, who has hemophilia.  The Tsar starts picking up a big toy train, but the son tells him to leave it where it is.  The Tsar obeys.  The women of the family think that Rasputin helps their son recover from episodes of bleeding associated with hemophilia.  They have a portrait of the man on the wall and the Queen Mother kneels before it to thank Rasputin for saving the future Tsar.  While meetings still go on, the Tsar goes into a darkroom to develop some of his photos. 

The 9th of January, 1905, a huge workers' strike is broken up by soldiers shooting the strikers.   

Khodynka, 1896.  Trampled and knocked down was 1,389, heavily wounded, 1,300. 

1904-1905, the Russo-Japanese War.  Over 400,000 killed, wounded or MIA. 

The Revolution of 1905-1907.  Killed and tortured  -- 65,830. 

The Lena Execution, 1912, killed over 500. 

World War I.  From 1914 to 1915 Russia lost about 3 million killed, wounded or MIA.

I. P. Manus, a millionaire, is out in the open having a gypsy party with gypsy dancing girls. Amongst the women is Rasputin.  Also there is D. L. Rubenstein, a banker.  Rasputin gets up and dances and sings with the gypsies.   An old man M. M. Andronikov, Panhandler Prince says he's afraid to approach him (Rasputin).  Andronikov asks the butler if he is also afraid of the trenches?  At the gypsy party, the businessmen start arguing over money and properties.  Andronikov tells Rasputin that the Minister of Interior Mr. Khvostov and Prince Andronnikov are dining together.  The butler is supposed to bring Rasputin to the dinner.  The butler begs Rasputin to come with him to the dinner.  Rasputin crawls on all fours to the dining room.  He drinks some wine (after switching glasses with the Prince) and tastes some food, tells the men they are all going to hell and walks out. 

Rasputin's appearance shocks the other party goers.  He goes up to a pretty, young woman, says he has just fallen in love with her and starts groping her.  The woman protests and her husband comes over and hits Rasputin and then tries to throw him over the railing.  A bunch of woman, however, grab Rasputin and soon he disappears somewhere in that female bunch.  L. V. Nikitina, the city's lady in waiting, sees all of this.  She is the daughter of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress commander.  A journalist calls into his paper about a scandal that just happened where Baroness N. was offended and her husband defended her. 

Rasputin tries to hide in the fireplace.  Baroness N. grabs him and says she is getting him out of this den of iniquity.  She rushes him to a waiting car.  In the car is Anna Alexandrovna.  She shows Rasputin a photograph of Sturmer, Boris Vladimirovich, Hofmeister, a rich landlord and an extreme right-winger.  When Rasputin is delivered to his destination, Sturmer talks to him going on and on.  Rasputin tells him that he can be the chairman of ministers, but if anything happens:  "I'll break your spine." 

F. F. Yusupov, Prince, Count Sumarokov-Elston comes by car to see Dmitry Pavlovich, Great Prince.  Felix tells Dmitry that he has come to say goodbye.  He is going to England or France or some other country.  Then he says:  "To Rome."  Dmitry is listening in on a lecture and demonstration by P. A. Badmayev, Owl, the doctor of Tibetan medicine.  Dmitry tells Felix that he spoke to the Tsar.  Felix tells Dmitry that he must be resolute.  It sounds like they are plotting the assassination of Rasputin.  M. M. Sukhotin, 1st Lt. waits in the car for Felix. 

There are scenes of many, many men getting their leg and arm prostheses.

A woman named Baroness Sasha Akilina, dressed in black, comes to visit a friend.  A woman there asks if it was Sasha's husband who struck Rasputin?  The baroness has come to speak with Rasputin to save her husband, who was arrested for hitting Rasputin. A politician asks Rasputin to use his influence and get the Tsar to come to the Duma.  Rasputin virtually ignores the man.  He is called into another room.  A female mystery singer has called again and is humming to Rasputin again.  The woman won't give her name.  Sasha's friend tells Rasputin that Sasha is here.  Sasha is taken to a room with a bed and a liquor cabinet.  Rasputin has her take off her clothes.  She lays on the bed as stiff as a board so Rasputin can have his way with her.  He tells her to resign herself and calls her a viper.  He then tells her that she is Satan and leaves the room. 

Rasputin gets a call from the Queen Mother.  He speaks of a dream where the rainbows around the Duma and around the Tsar intersected.  He is preparing the idea of a visit by the Tsar to the Duma.  Anna Alexandrovna is in the room and listens to the conversation. 

And sure enough. the Tsar appears before the Duma.  He gets a big round of applause.  The Tsar has tears in his eyes listening to the clapping. 

Anna Alexandrovna and Rasputin confer over which people will be assigned to which posts.  After awhile, he gets tired of her and tells her to go.  She asks him if there is a God inside him now?  Rasputin goes crazy, walks into another room, returns with a boxed portrait of Jesus and breaks it with his knee in front of Anna.  He looks at Anna intensely and says:  "I am . . . I . . . Grigory.  And you come with me.  We'll go together. Until the end!"  Anna says yes. 

There are scenes of a strike being broken by the police and of people starving to death.  "Never has the gap between the power and people been so wide.  There could be no peaceful outcomes.  Now only the people could seal their fate."   

 

Part II.

A fellow comes into a peculiar place where people are taking hot baths.  He is one of the rich men of Russia.  He talks with another rich man who says that the man promised to give him an offensive and he has seen no offensive as of yet. 

Rasputin speaks with Badma, who tells him he hasn't slept for three nights.  Badma says the Tsarevich should be crowned and his mother be made the regent.  Rasputin tells Badma:  "Remember, you didn't say that, and I didn't hear it.  Don't touch father or . . ."  Rasputin gets another telephone call from the humming woman.  He asks for her address and says he will be right over. 

Rasputin talks with the humming woman.  He wants to go to bed with her, but there is a man already in the bed.  It seems the clergy has set up a trap for the mad monk.  They want to talk with him.  They tell Rasputin off saying that he is rotten scum who grabbed power that wasn't meant for him by God.  He desecrates monasteries and cloisters with his sexual romps.  He bewitches the sovereign of Russia and gets in the way of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox faith.  They ban him from the Tsar's house.  They try to force him to swear an oath of some kind. 

After ten hours of sleep, Rasputin wakes up.  Badma is with him.  He tries to call the Tsarina, but the operator says that she is not allowed to connect him with the royal family.  Rasputin asks Badma why everyone gives him such a hard time and Badma says it's because Rasputin is a dog, a lecherous dog, and he will die like a dog too.  Now Rasputin learns they have taken his car service away from him.  The mad monk puts on a rag coat and walks to try to see the Tsarina. 

The Tsar goes on the offensive denouncing Rasputin to his wife and mother.  He says:  "There's no way to deal with him.  That's it!  Over!"  He is tried of dealing with all the complaints from so many people about the mad monk.  Mother and Tsarina demand that Rasputin stay.   Outside the palace Rasputin wallows in a big mud puddle.  The Tsar says he has made his decision.  Rasputin is to leave Petrograd ,never to return again.  Just then the Tsar realizes that the monk is now in the room with them.  He is shivering from the cold water of the puddle.  He is crying somewhat.  He talks on and on like a crazy man until he faints and falls on the floor.  On the floor he starts talking in tongues.  The Tsar looks very worried.  The mad monk says "Baranovichi".  The Tsar wonders what this means.  Should they advance on Baranovichi on the western front, despite the fact that all their best troops were sent south?  His mother says yes, yes. 

Headquarters, Mogilev (in today's eastern Belarus).  M. V. Alexeyev, General Staff Head, has several objections to an offensive on Baranovichi.  The area for the enemy has material and tactical advantages. A. A. Brusilov, the Southwestern Front Commander, says there are swamps in the area.  As they trudge through the swamp, the Germans shoot the Russian soldiers point-blank.  The wheels sink in the mud.  And there is no hot food for the troops.  A. Ye. Evert, the Western Front Commander, says that he will try to carry out the Tsar's command.   But Evert's troops have recently lost half of their men on the western front.  The Tsar leaves the railway car meeting to walk in the snow.  He grabs shotguns from some soldiers and shoots a lot of birds out of the sky.

F. F. Yusupov practices entering a room and immediately emptying his gun into the body of Rasputin.  Dmitry tries it next, but he hesitates too much and fires only one shot.  Their instructor says the men are still not firing their weapons correctly.  He rapidly fires his weapon until it is empty and hits the target, a photo of Rasputin.  Dr. S. S. Lazavert is there to provide the poisons, prussic acid and cyanide, to put in Rasputin's food and drink. The men swear to the death of Rasputin. 

The mad monk is having a gathering with many of his female admirers.  With him are his son Dmitry, his daughters Varya and Matryona and his wife Paraskeva.  The Tsarina is there also.  There are a few men at the table.  One fellow asks why the Tsar would talk to a peasant like Rasputin?  Rasputin gets irritated and starts acting crazy again.  A male guest says that Rasputin is a thief  -- that he stole the farmer's poles. Rasputin gets so angry that he grabs a little pig and throws it at the man, but the pig lands in the center of the table instead, making a mess of things.  The women and the Tsarina run for cover.  The Tsarina is upset by this violent outburst by Rasputin.  Rasputin gets a letter from the Queen Mother.  It says that the Russians were slaughtered at Baranovichi.   That night, Rasputin is locked out of the houses.   The monk goes from door to door asking for people to open up, but they won't.  Rasputin now says he hates them all. 

A Russian politician in the Duma praises the Russian troops.  He also celebrates that the Bolsheviks have been banned now from the Duma.  Then he focuses on a denunciation of Rasputin.  He calls for the Tsar's Ministers to talk to the Tsar and denounce Rasputin to him.  The denunciation is met with thunderous and long-lasting applause.

Two men arrive to tell Rasputin, who is listening to music with his female friends, that some of his supporters have been arrested under orders from the Minister of the Interior.  The monk starts praying aloud, despite the fact that the men tell him he must not tarry.  One man, Andron, puts a call into Sturmer.  When Sturmer gets on the phone, Rasputin won't talk to Strumer, so Andron imitates Rasputin's shouting and denounces Sturmer for having arrested a good man.  Rasputin writes a letter about the situation, but doesn't know who to send it to.   

The Tsar gives permission to use force against the protestors.  Rasputin, on the streets, gets scared when he hears the new order and tries to seek cover, but no one will let him into any of the buildings around the area.  P. N. Balashov, Duma Deputy (Monarchist) says that the fault lies with Rasputin, but it's the Tsar who will ultimately be blamed because he was weak, cruel, wretched.  V. A. Maklakov, Duma Deputy (Cadet) listens to Balashov say that there's no alternative but to let the blame fall on the Tsar.  Maklakov objects to assassinating Rasputin because this is an amoral choice.  Balashov says either way, the idea of Russian monarchy will be ruined forever and Russia will also be ruined. 

The assassination plot is put into action.  Yusupov and Dmitry invite Rasputin to dinner.  Felix invites him to eat and drink, but Rasputin refuses.  He asks that his wife to be brought to him.  An excuse is offered for why she can't come down this minute.  The mad monk is getting extremely nervous.  He finally eats some sweet rolls.  He asks for Felix to bring his wife down. Felix goes into the next room where the plotters are and tells them that the poison has not worked.  The men are furious with the doctor because the poison did not work.  The doctor swears the poison is real.  Felix is now given a pistol to shoot Rasputin.  He rushes out of the room.  Rasputin is on the steps headed up.  Felix brings him back to the dining room.  Rasputin tries to get out of the room, but the door is locked.  While he tries to force it open, Felix shoots the monk once in the back.  The monk falls to the floor.  The plotters come into the room.  The doctor and the pistol instructor start kicking the monk's body.  Then everyone leaves the room, except for Felix, to get the car.  Felix examines Rasputin and the man suddenly opens his eyes.  He grabs Felix by the throat. and Felix screams.  Rasputin then tries to get away, but the gates are closed.  One of the plotters shoots Rasputin once and he falls down.  He gets up but then is shot and he goes down again.  The assassin now shoots Rasputin two more times.

The royal family looks over the body of Rasputin in his coffin.  The coffin is placed in a grave.  The queen mother and Tsarina are dressed in black.   

"1916 was coming to an end.  One of the darkest periods of Russian history was over. The regime was doomed.  The monarchy was counting its last days."

1917.  The Russian Revolution.  "On October 24, 1917, the new history of Russia began."

 

Very good movie that criticizes Rasputin, the Czar and his royal family and the wealthy class.  In a way the film says that given how grave the situation was in Russia, change was coming regardless of what the Tsar and Tsarina did or didn't do.  Russia was in deep trouble because of the terrible, glaring inequalities between the rich and poor in Russia.  And glaring inequalities also brings social strife eventually.  World War I went horribly wrong for Russia.  The war showed everyone just how behind the times and corrupt Russian society, politics and economy were compared to the nations of western Europe.  About one-third of the Russian soldiers were being sent to fight with axes and scythes to go up against the advanced weapons of Germany.   The odds against success and for failure were so great that there wasn't much the Tsar could do.  And what he did do was usually out of blindness or blindness and obstinacy and his inability to stand up to his family:  the Queen Mother, the Tsarina and even his own son.  The family made even worse decision than the Tsar did and Russia paid the price for the Tsar not standing up to his family.  Some even say the Tsar was a coward. 

This Russian version of Rasputin has many long scenes showing the debauchery and madness of the mad monk, which were interesting to watch.  He was an alcoholic and an extreme womanizer.  Any objective observer could see that the man was mad and not trustworthy or reliable, but he always had the Tsarina and the Queen Mother on his side. Virtually the whole nation wanted Rasputin gone or killed.   Not dealing with the mad monk just made the Royal family look cowardly, amoral, corrupt and inept.  The conclusion among the people was that the monarchy and its corruption had to go. 

From an historical viewpoint, the movie gives a lot of information on just how bad off Russia was at the time.  It makes it seem that it was inevitable what happened to Rasputin and the royal family.  I think this is one of the best ways to approach history, because there is little that humans can do once inequality and corruption has risen to a critical level.  And that's a lesson the USA has never learned.  Racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination periodically explodes in the faces of Americans and their government is left trying to patch up the pieces.  The degree of inequality has increased so much following the white backlash against the civil rights movement in the USA that trouble is coming and in many ways.  But let's pretend we are ostriches and ignore racial and ethnic hatred.  After all, talking about race is unpleasant and upsetting to most Americans, white or black. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

I should mention that my wife did not like the film and refused to watch the second half.  She doesn't know much about Russian history and got lost, saying that the movie is hard to understand.  When I watched it, I did not find it hard to understand.  There are a lot of characters and names and its hard remembering who is who, but I got all the main points at least.  Aleksei Petrenko (Grigori Rasputin) did a very good job in the film.  Rasputin sure was disagreeable and contemptible. 

 

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