12 December 2004 | marcin_kukuczka
Not very accurate as a historical work, but very good as a movie!
Russia, the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. Tzar Peter, much ahead of his times, attempts at turning his country into the modern world. However, it is a real hardship to achieve the goals. He has to cope with conspiracies, even in his own family, and the objection from the church and the mob. That's more or less a brief summary of the mini series Peter the Great. Although the movie entails several serious historical inaccuracies, a viewer does get a general picture of the Russia of that time, of tzar Peter and his genius. What is more, it is very good as a movie.
Any director has the right to change something in history, interpret it in his/her own way. That is no problem. The real distortion comes when there is a travesty of the times and of historic figures. But that is out of question when applied to this movie.
The action is great! The mini series, though quite long, is made in such a way that once you start watching it, you will watch it till the end. The director's main focus is the figure of tzar Peter, his life, his goals, his dreams for Russia, and his disappointments. Looking from this perspective, the movie is a masterpiece, highly underrated. In most of the scenes with Peter, one can follow his thoughts, his experience with ruling, his goals that are hopelessly destroyed by the patriarchs, who say that Peter lost his soul, the blind mob, and, most tragically, his son Alexis. I can't forget the scene when Peter says "I've lost my son. He doesn't love me" The tzar Peter is beautifully portrayed by two actors: young Jan Niklas, really worth noticing, and Maximilian Schell, and undoubtable talent, not only as an actor but as a director too (see for instance his Erste Liebe).
Other cast are also very, very good. Lawrence Olivier as the English king, William of Orange, Trevor Howard as Sir Isaac Newton (consider Peter's memorable meeting with Sir Newton); Ursula Andress as Athalie, and especially, Vanessa Redgrave as Peter's rebellious sister Sophia. She plays equally well as in another Russian epic, Young Catherine (1991) by Michael Anderson with Julia Ormond in the main role.
I want to make one more notice about the movie. There are a lot of scenes that the movie is worth watching for. But especially, watch the part that shows Peter's journey to Europe. Marvin J. Chomsky wonderfully presents a huge contrast between the Europe of that time and Russia. Then, you will definitely understand his goals...
Peter the Great is a Russian epic that is highly underrated and seriously forgotten. The movie is very well made, it gives a clear picture of that reality, and a memorable interpretation of Peter's life. The whole story proves one sad fact very clearly:
Great people are usually GREAT after their death! Isn't that an irony of human fate?