Agony: The Life And Death Of Rasputin (1981)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB.5

Original title:  Agoniya

Alternate title:  Rasputin

USSR, 1981.  Mosfilm.  Screenplay by , .  Cinematography by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Agony is what some audience members might be feeling should they be subjected to the full, unedited 150-minute version of this film. The rise and fall of Grigori Yefimovich Novykh, more famously known as Rasputin, is chronicled in this exquisitely beautiful pageant of a film, the kind of grand-scale epic that Russian filmmakers excel at.  Those unfamiliar with history will have difficulty with many of the details (even with all the file footage that is presented to great effect), while those with prior knowledge of the events that unfold might still be frustrated.

The scenes mostly concentrate on Rasputin ranting and raving to little narrative effect, while director Elem Klimov seems to never be sure whether to make something of a linear nature or go the Crazy European Phantasmagoria Masterpiece route that artists like Andrei Tarkovsky were enjoying at the time it was made. Originally shot in 1975, the film was suppressed by the Soviet Government until it finally screened publicly in 1981.

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition


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