Mathilde: The Affair to Break an Empire

5.31 h 48 min201718+
This glorious costume drama is set at the twilight of Imperial Russia. It is based on the true story of a romantic relationship between the heir to the Russian throne, Nikolay Romanoff, and a ballerina in the Imperial Theater, Matilda Kshesinskaya, from the time the 22-year-old crown prince and 18-year-old dancer met in 1890 to the coronation of Nikolay and his wife Aleksandra Fedorovna in 1896.
Alexey Uchitel
Michalina OlszańskaLars EidingerLuise Wolfram
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Ingeborga Dapkunaite
Alexandr DostmannVladimir Vinokur
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Foul languagenuditysexual contentviolence
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3.2 out of 5 stars

58 global ratings

  1. 33% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 17% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 10% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 25% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

AutumnReviewed in the United States on December 1, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
Great movie, but I can see why many found this distasteful (sans crazy religous zealots)
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I fully recognize that a film's purpose is first to entertain and not to be a documentary, but I do feel that an ethical line exists when portraying real people, and I feel this movie crossed it. It's almost as if this movie tells the story the way the critics of Alexandra Feodorovna during her time would have wanted to imagine it. Alix never fully gained the trust of many of her people, primarily because she was not Russian, and she bore four girls before giving the country an heir (a very grim sign to many of her people). Knowing this, I can understand why the revelation that the last tsar had a lover - a Polish ballerina at that - prior to marrying Alix would be plumb picking for the chance to tell a story of a tsar who was reluctant to marry this foreign woman, and who may even have cursed his family by doing so. The problem is, Nicholas and Alix married each other against the judgement of their families because they wanted to be together. They married for love, despite knowing the hardship their marriage would bring with it. Their story is also a romantically compelling one, and one that has been well-documented. The turmoil in Alix's life came from her inability to gain the love of her people (arguably through no fault of her own, though some of her handling of this didn't help), not because her husband didn't want to be with her and was in love with another woman. This movie portrays Nicholas as if he is angry about having to choose between the throne and his lover. It suggests that you should be rooting for Mathilde and Nicholas, and it shows Alix as a desperate, mean woman who unfit for the role she's been given (an unfortunately enduring yet inaccurate version of who she was). If you know anything about history in this time period, then the set up for this film makes no sense. If Nicholas were sacrificing love for duty, then it would be incredibly stupid for him to do so with a marriage both his and her families and countries were very much against. This movie also heavily inflates what we know about the relationship with Mathilde and Nicholas, which is to be expected, but it does so at the expense of Alexandra Feodorovna's character -- a real person who doesn't deserve to be dismissed in her already tragic enough life story. Again, a film's purpose is not to document, but because film is the more powerful way in which people come to know about the world, I believe it is the duty of the filmmaker to be responsible with the image of an actual person's life. I do not feel this filmmaker was successful in that regard, and so I can only rate this three stars. As a work of fiction with all ties to the Romanov family removed, this would be a compelling and interesting story and a beautifully made film. But the ethical violation required to tell the story of Nicholas and Mathilde in the way this film chooses to tell it makes it at times completely unpalatable. With that said, if you do not care at all about the history of the Romanov dynasty and you're just looking for a period drama, then you'll probably enjoy this. But please do so with the knowledge that just about everything you see is pure fantasy (with a few exceptions which are mostly irrelevant to the main plot - for instance, the train wreck), so don't expect to take any level of a lesson in history from it.. The set and costumes are beautiful, and by no means did this film deserve the despicable kinds of criticism it received by religious extremist groups, but objectively, it still call itself a historical drama in the absolute loosest sense, and the lengths at which it goes does border on distasteful (and not because of nudity, mind). I really, really wanted to like this film. I thought a film about this aspect of Nicholas II's life could be fascinating. But instead I'm just kind of frustrated.
50 people found this helpful
Desert RoseReviewed in the United States on March 27, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Historically inaccurate and simply ridiculous!
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How many times will that gal scream "NEEEKEEE" through the whole doggone movie? Got very tedious. The casting is terrible. All three of the main characters were in their late teens/early 20s, but yet they cast actors who are pushing 40? Especially with Alexandra? Come on! No wonder Russia lost their collective minds over this film. Complete hack job that is an insult to three very interesting people historically. They need to make two separate films: one that show respect to Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra and one that is honest and fair regarding the ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. She lived to be 99 years old and had a very interesting life apart from a 3 year premarital dalliance with the Tsar.
18 people found this helpful
Sza-SzaReviewed in the United States on March 6, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
3 stars for costumes, decor, and ambience - Absolute Eye Candy
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3 *STARS* merited for the beauty trifecta of costumes, settings, and ambience and truly, truly well deserved.
The acting is good, professional, but not outstanding.
The story is silly and takes many and great liberties with history. Mathilde Ksesschinska was a lovely and talented Polish ballerina in the early wild oats part of Tsar Nicholas's life but then he married the love of his life Alix of Hesse.
Mathilde was an adventuress, sort of a latter day Jackie Kennedy, looking for a rich husband, only Mathilde actually had some talent.
She was plucky, married her Grand Duke after the revolution, and opened a ballet school in Paris to keep afloat. Tsar Nicky might have been better off with her after all. She was a survivor(plus no haemophilia!) but beneath his class so - never to be. Read "Imperial Dancer" for her bio.
But the movie itself is eye candy, that's for sure.
9 people found this helpful
Mark FalcoffReviewed in the United States on June 30, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
So inaccurate one doesn't know where to start
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But I will try. First of all, the marriage of Nicholas and Alexandra was definitely a love match, unusual for monarchs of that period. When they were engaged Nicholas told his future wife of his affair with a ballet dancer, whom he had definitely given up. She forgave him and they went forward to a very successful marriage (though a remarkably unsuccessful reign, which ended in a tawdry cellar in Siberia, taking all their children with them). No doubt Alexandra was a deeply neurotic and charmless woman, but not as depicted in this film. Most of the film therefore deals with a conflict that Nicholas had definitely resolved by the time he married. One other point. The disaster which occurred on the eve of the coronation--the death of 2,000 people on a military field near Moscow as the result of a panic--was not followed by a visit of the Czar to the site, much less his order to buy coffins for all the victims. Far from it. He and the Czarina went to a gala ball at the French Embassy, a move for which he and his consort ended up paying a very high political price for the rest of their reign. It's odd that a Russian company would make such an inaccurate film, in many ways a kind of soft-core porn romance. As usual with Russian films of this type, however--and going back even to the Soviet period--the fascination with the paraphernalia of the ancien regime is laid on with a trowel--the costumes, the pageantry, etc. Well done there, which is why I give this film a single star rather than none at all.
5 people found this helpful
Tatyana MReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
good movie, but not historically accurate
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Nice plot, but not so much based on actual events. I didn't even know Tsar Nicholas II had a lover. He chose Alexandra because he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Mathilde was a promiscuous woman who had two love affairs with two men and bore a child (her son never knew exactly who was his father). She used her connections with Romanovs to secure her position with the ballet. She was mean sometimes to her competitors in ballet. So, she was portrayed in a movie as this martyr of love, which was not the case. Nice movie for entertainment purposes, but not a historical one.
8 people found this helpful
John D. GleissnerReviewed in the United States on November 8, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Pageantry, Costumes & Symbolism
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While historically inaccurate, and largely contrived as to the fantastical sub-plots, this movie had great costumes, sets and pageantry, which is why I gave it 4 stars. Like all inaccurate historical films, it makes us research the real history on the internet. One theme I detected was the indecisiveness of Czar Nicholas II and its disastrous impact on his reign. While the movie drew this indecisiveness out too long, it dramatized it in the dreamed coronation scene, Nicky's visit to the scene of his coronation disaster and other foreshadowing of the assassinations in 1918. The use of ballerinas by the upper classes was a recognition of the decadence of the Romanov regime. As another reviewer pointed out, Mathilde too many times yelled out, "Nicky!!" The two had a "final" tender embrace too often. The Czarina was laughably injected into one of Nicky's meetings with his ballerina.

But the truth is more dismal: Nicholas II was dumb, rigid, indecisive and prevaricating & Alexandra morose, detached, distant from her adopted people, and absurdly and secretly reliant on an uneducated alcoholic lecherous monk who she allowed to take precedence over the wisest of ministers.

I wish Russian film makers would not succumb to Hollywood's tricks, cinematic conventions, injected suspense and gratuitous sex.
One person found this helpful
Mary B.Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Bit of History I didn't Know
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As usual, the Russians have done it again! The film is splendid. The actors & actresses are excellent. The attention to detail exquisite - particularly the train interiors in the beginning of the film. The costumes fantastic, the jewelry . . . I could go on & on. I could care less that the film did not go over well in Russia. It is so well done. It really isn't an insult to the Russian people. It wasn't unusual for an heir apparent to fall in love with someone deemed inappropriate for "polite society" or for the monarchy. Why else would Edward VIII have abdicated so he could marry the he loved? Others just didn't have his fortitude to follow their hearts. A very interesting movie. Bravo, Russian. You've done it again. Keep up the marvelous work.
5 people found this helpful
GigiReviewed in the United States on March 15, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
I expected much more from this based on the ads
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It is simply not interesting enough. Apart from nice costumes, decorations, and the style, there was not much of a substance. I don't know if it was based on a true story or not, it is not, I have no comment about it. My comment is about the movie. It kind of reminded me of Moulin Rouge at some point. I am not convinced of the way Russian Ballerinas were presented. It was supposed to be of an exquisite standard and manners, but here they are shown in a poor taste. Also, the acting of the 2 main characters was mediocre. It is a missed opportunity for the director.
2 people found this helpful
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