Oh, I love Anastasia. Yeah, I mean the 1997 version by Don Bluth. It’s really almost unfair of me to even rip this apart, because OMG EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS INACCURATE. But it’s so cute, with a gorgeous soundtrack and loveable characters and gahhhhh…how can you hate it?
Anastasia is based off of one of the biggest royal tragedies of all time, touted as one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century: the execution of the Romanovs, the ruling family of Imperial Russia, in 1917 after the Bolshevik Revolution. The emperor, Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, their five children, and four members of their household were shot to death in the basement of the house they were imprisoned in. The bodies were dragged into the woods, lit on fire, doused in sulphuric acid, and buried in a mine shaft.
Of course, this is Don Bluth; you’re never going to see that. In any case: in Anastasia, somehow, one of the Romanov children — the youngest daughter, Anastasia, survived the tragedy, but has subsequently lost her memory. She escapes an orphanage as a teenager, and wanders to St. Petersburg, where she meets handsome debonair con artist Dmitri, who sees her as the perfect imposter Anastasia to bring to Paris before the princess’s Grandmother, Dowager Empress Marie, in order to con her into giving him 10 million rubles (Russian money). Except that the evil Rasputin, the one-time friend of the Romanovs who is cursed to remain in limbo until he successfully kills Anastasia, is on their tail, determined to kill the dynasty once and for all.
Okay. Let’s begin with Anastasia herself. Because…yeah.
In the film, Grand Duchess (not Princess, gah) Anastasia is eight years old when her family is destroyed in the Revolution. Except…Anastasia was born in 1901. When her family was executed on July 18, 1917, Anastasia was seventeen years old. Meaning that, if the story takes place approximately 10 years into the future as the movie pretends…she would be closing in on her 30’s (which to be fair, doesn’t seem as old as it did when I first saw Anastasia).
Also, sucktastic spoiler alert: Anastasia didn’t survive.
When the bodies of the Romanovs were first discovered, the remains of two of the children were missing. One was Alexei, the heir to the throne, aged 13. The other was one of the younger two sisters — either Marie or Anastasia. Because so many imposters (most notably Anna Anderson) claimed to be Anastasia over the years — and possibly because she had such a boisterous personality — the missing sister was largely believed to be Anastasia.
Historians generally discounted the idea that the two children survived. One, because Alexei was a hemophiliac — a disorder in which the blood refuses to clot. By the admission of their murderers, the royal family was shot, beaten, bludgeoned, and bayoneted to death, making it unlikely that anyone could have survived, and certainly not a young boy who was already so ill he could barely walk. And two, because the murderers were Bolshevik agents who were given orders to leave no survivors. It is doubtful they would risk their skins to save two children. In any case, in 2007 the remains of two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were found a short distance from the mine shaft where the Romanovs had been left. Forensic experts confirmed that the bodies were those of Alexei Romanov and his missing sister, Anastasia or Marie.
Usually I’d be ripping such an obvious inaccuracy to shreds but you know, it was prior to the bodies being found and oh yeah, it’s a fictional children’s musical so I’ll shut my yap about it. At least about this part.
Dowager Empress Marie did not live in Paris, nor did she entertain Anastasia imposters. Dowager Empress Marie Fedeorovna fled the Revolution to her native country of Denmark, where she lived out her remaining years as the guest of the Danish royal family in Copenhagen. Although she received reports that her son Nicholas and his family had been murdered, along with her only other surviving son, Michael, Marie refused to believe the reports, and chose instead to hold out hope that her family had been spared. But she never put out a reward for anyone who “found” her missing family members, nor did she put herself through the heartache of receiving imposters. That unlucky task fell to her daughter, Olga Alexandrovna, who would meet Anna Anderson in person and became her most famous detractor.
And I have to say, guys: Rasputin may have sucked, but he was so inaccurately portrayed that it’s disgusting. Rasputin was a self-proclaimed moujik, or mystic, who appeared in St. Petersburg and miraculously healed Alexei during a particularly serious bleeding incident. From that point on, Empress Alexandra considered Rasputin little less than a saint. He was held in high regard as the favorite of the court, which angered members of the royal family and nobility who felt they were being pushed out for an unsavory peasant who had a predilection for boozing, womanizing, and involving himself in politics.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Alexandra refused to believe Rasputin was anything but a holy man who was being wrongfully attacked by his enemies. He was murdered in 1916 by Nicholas II’s nephew and his friends, bringing great sorrow and fear to the royal family, since prior to his death Rasputin had predicted that, if he was murdered by members of the royal family, the Romanov dynasty would fall within six months. His prophesy turned out to be eerily accurate.
In Anastasia, we see a cringing Rasputin slinking up to Nicholas II at the 500th anniversary ball (side note: the 500th anniversary took place in 1913, three years before the Revolution, not immediately before it). An enraged Nicholas orders his arrest, calling him a “traitor”. Rasputin vows revenge on the whole family, manages to escape, sells his soul to the devil for the opportunity to destroy the Romanovs, and you know the rest.
Sure, Rasputin was a bastard. He drank, he whored, he sexually assaulted more than one woman, and he took advantage of a sick child and his desperate mother to bring himself power, riches, and affluence. But Rasputin would never have willingly destroyed the Romanovs or plotted their destruction. It would have been akin to pretty much ripping off and devouring the hand that feeds you, never mind biting. Also, Rasputin was definitely not the most Christian man you’d ever meet, but there is no evidence that he consorted with the devil, practiced black magic, etc. His only claims of magical ability were divination and healing, and always within an Orthodox Christian paradigm.
Just to show that I’m not really an asshole who loves to tear apart children’s movies, I’m going to put in a couple of Gold Stars. Which is going to be my little barometer of historical pieces that a truly inaccurate movie put in that the casual fan might have missed.
– Alexei’s limp. During Anastasia’s dream sequence, the royal family walks into the ballroom as she is dancing. We see just a second of Alexei, walking in with his mother and father. He is limping ever so slightly. Shortly before Rasputin was introduced to the royal family, Alexei suffered a bad bleed behind his knee. He walked with a limp and wore a leg brace afterwards.
– Rasputin really did drown in the Neva River. Although his murderers attempted to kill him by feeding him cakes and wine laced with poison, shooting him at point blank range, and beating him with a club and a chain, it was only after his supposedly-dead body was found in the icy Neva River that Rasputin finally succumbed. When he was found two days later, an autopsy revealed water in his lungs. He had died by drowning, thus forever earning him a place on Cracked.com’s list of 7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard to Kill.
Well, that’s Anastasia. I’m not going to rate it because let’s be fair, this film isn’t trying to pass itself off as historically accurate (there’s a talking bat for God’s sake), and because I don’t have a stick in my ass. Watch this movie. Even if you’re a die-hard history fan committed life and death to accuracy, watch it. Because it’s that freakin’ cute.