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June 21, 2009

"Tsar": A New Russian Film by the Director of "Ostrov"

Peter Mamonov (Tsar Ivan the Terribe) and Oleg Yankovsky (St. Philip of Moscow) take the lead in the film 'Tsar'

This past May another film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival alongside Agora which prominently features an Orthodox Saint - the film is called Tsar. While from early reviews we know that Agora seeks to show the conflicts between Science and Faith through the personages of Hypatia the Philosopher and Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, Tsar also presents a historical narrative in light of the contemporary conflict between the Church and the State in modern day Russia through the personages of Ivan the Terrible and Metropolitan Philip of Moscow. Both are relatively big budget foreign films (Tsar cost about $15 million to make) that received relatively good reviews and are sure to enjoy at least a limited release in the United States.

Here is the synopsis of the film:

"It is 1565 and Russia is ravaged by famine and war. Ivan Grosny, the first tsar of Russia, invites his childhood friend, Abbot Philip, to become a Metropolitan of Russia. Despite their close friendship, the new Metropolitan rebels against the cruelty and tortures of the tsar's policies."

The director of Tsar is Pavel Lounguine who is well-known in Orthodox circles for making what I consider perhaps the greatest film ever made about a Russian Orthodox monk who becomes a Holy Fool in Ostrov (2006), aka The Island. Peter Mamonov, who starred in Ostrov, this time takes on the role of the ruthless Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Opposite him is one of the great film actors of Russia, Oleg Yankovskiy, who plays St. Philip of Moscow as the man who dared to clash wills with Ivan and payed for it with his life. Unfortunately Yankovskiy passed away the day after the film premiered at Cannes, so Tsar is his final film and will surely raise its appeal in Russia and France where he was well known and loved.

I have not seen the film and eagerly wait for it. Below are some early reviews:

Yankovsky in his final screen role, as Metropolitan Philip in 'Tsar', to be released next year