The Romanovs (TV Series 2013– ) Poster

(2013– )

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Superb Documentary Series
lavatch28 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Romanovy" is an extremely well-produced, eight-part documentary series on the House of Romanov. The series is successful not only in portraying the lives of the tsars, but in excellent background on the tumultuous times in Russia from the accession of Michael in 1613 to the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917.

The strength of the programs is the crisp narration that is filled with interesting insights into the Romanovs. Some of the most interesting developments are the contributions of the women throughout Russian imperial history. Of course, one of the most important tasks of the tsarina was to bear children, and the programa depict numerous tragedies of infant mortality through disease or the death of the empress in childbirth. Sometimes the sense of loss was so staggering that it had pronounced effects on the tsar and the empire.

In the documentary approach to this series the filmmakers avoid a convention in American and British documentary films of the "talking heads" of expert commentators. None of the eggheads appear, as the programs are exclusively narration with visual aids of maps, quotations, graphics, and statistical data. The filmmakers have taken great pains to cast actors who look like the great figures being portrayed: Peter the Great, Sophie, Catherine the Great, the three Alexanders, and Nicholas II. The lavish costuming especially enhanced the episodes. The only drawback for the non-Russian speaking audience were the subtitles that often included translations in substandard English. This fine series awaits a dubbed version that will attract a wider audience.

The programs were especially insightful in identifying turning points in Russian history. In 1888, the Borki train disaster nearly took the life of Alexander III and the royal family. The tsar himself incurred damage to his kidney that may have shortened his life. Two years after the train wreck, Alexander formed an ill-fated alliance with France. It is suggested in the program that without the alliance, Russia might not have entered into World War I and, without the war, the Romanov dynasty might not have ended in 1917.

Another theme developed through the series was Russian mysticism and its effects on the Romanovs. In 1801, Tsar Paul I had written a "secret" letter not to be opened for another hundred years. The letter included the prophecies of a monk named Abel, who foretold the disastrous fate of the Romanov dynasty. The letter was opened and read in 1901 by Nicholas II and the empress Alexandra. Ashen-faced and somber after reading the letter, the final Romanov family learned of their own tragic fate on that day. Despite his ineptitude and the disasters he brought on his nation, Nicholas II is treated sympathetically by the Russian filmmakers, who identify at the close of the series the canonization of Nicholas II and his family by the Orthodox Church in the year 2000.
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