Banned in Russia for over a decade for its blasphemous portrayal of Nicholas II, Elem Klimov's (COME AND SEE) intense drama brings to life the controversial figure of the "mad monk" who wielded a legendary power over the royal family. Klimov's portrayal is indeed an indictment of the ruling class, depicting the Czar (Anatoli Romashin) as an ineffectual ruler blindly led by the charismatic, power-hungry Grigory Rasputin (Aleksei Petrenko), while the politically decrepit aristocracy degenerated into decadence and hedonism. Arriving at court with a strange healing power that many attributed to hypnotism, Rasputin was the only person capable of treating the Tsar's young heir, stopping his uncontrollable bleeding later recognized as hemophilia. Once his place in the palace was secure, however, the monk embarked upon a downward spiral of sexual vice, drunkenness, and violence that made him many enemies among society's upper echelons. Eventually deciding that Rasputin's power threatened the security of Russia's monarchy, a group of noblemen plotted a demise that would enter history as one of the most fabled murders of all time. Petrenko's performance is nothing less than spectacular, channeling the spirit of Rasputin in a chillingly apt depiction of insanity.