Here and below, Alexei Petrenko as Rasputin
Strangely enough, the Soviet Union seems to have had a hard time figuring out what to make of Rasputin. Either the government, its state-run film industry or director Elem Klimov did, since Agoniya, Klimov's Rasputin film, sat on the Soviet shelf for close to a decade, appearing only on the eve of Gorbachevian glasnost after occasional screenings in the west. Having just watched the film, I have to assume that there were errors of omission in Klimov's account, unless Soviet censors were simply prudes, since I saw nothing I could call even implicitly anti-Soviet in the story, though I did see a few bare breasts. Some people have suggested that Klimov made Nicholas II too sympathetic, even though the film clearly portrays him as an ineffectual wretch who isn't even master of his own household. Others speculate that the director didn't emphasize enough that Lenin and other Bolsheviks were leading the scenes of working-class unrest that are illustrated with newsreel and stock-footage imagery. Nobody can accuse Klimov of neglecting to teach a lesson, since the film is thick with expository narrative and contextualizing history lessons. Of these, the most interesting was the gallery of mad monks, mountebanks, etc who infested late imperial Russia. Rasputin had rivals in his own time, most notably in the film a Tibetan herbalist who teaches breathing exercises to infirm nobles and clearly hopes for greater proximity to the throne.
Felix Yusupov and his co-conspirators.
Jafar Panahi reminds us this very week. Klimov got a kind of revenge by becoming head of the Soviet film board under Gorbachev and releasing many more suppressed films, but it's a shame, on the strength of this film, that he didn't get more opportunities to do his own thing.