From awkward sex scenes to cheap-looking robes and a shot of Red Square in 1905 with the Lenin Mausoleum already in place, Russians have found plenty to criticise in Netflix’s new series ‘The Last Czars’.
“What’s wrong with Netflix’s ‘The Last Czars’? Spoiler: everything,” wrote news site Fontanka, based in the imperial capital Saint Peterburg.
The series, which launched this month, tells the story of Nicholas II’s ill-fated reign. In an unusual move, it alternates acted scenes with talking head explanations from British and US academics and popular historians.
The focus is on the role of Grigory Rasputin, the holy man who convinced Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra that he could heal their haemophiliac son and heir Alexei.
The series — aimed at viewers without special knowledge of the period — was never likely to please Russians, who often pick holes in Western dramatisations of their history and literature.
A noticeable exception was HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ series earlier this year, which was warmly received by Russians and praised for attention to detail.
In ‘The Last Czars’, journalists singled out for mockery a title with the date 1905 and a photo of Red Square with the mausoleum erected after Lenin’s 1924 death already in situ.
This sparked a host of internet memes with the date imposed on pictures of modern Russia.
In another error, the Kremlin walls are shown as red but were actually whitewashed at the time.
“After such things, it’s very hard to take the show seriously,” wrote newspaper Argumenty i Fakty.
Presented ‘myths as truths’
Lengthy sex scenes showing the royal couple also had Russians cringing.
On their wedding night, the topless tsarina tells the tsar as they make love that “you need to be strong. You’re the tsar, the master of the land.”
Journalist Fyodor Krasheninnikov on Facebook criticised another “disgusting scene” where the tsarina prays out loud for a son while making love.
“The series will only please people who wanted to see the tsarina naked,” wrote Argumenty i Fakty.
In other errors, footage of an Armenian monastery is used for a monastery in the Urals that Rasputin visited, TV Rain independent channel reported.
“To be honest, I’m disappointed,” journalist Yevgeniya Zobnina said on TV Rain. “Because after the huge success of ‘Chernobyl’... it seemed we would see something similar.
“It’s like the series gathered together all the myths about the tsar’s court of that time and presented them as convincing truth.”
Russian media criticised what they called the cheap look of the show, given that its subject is a hugely wealthy dynasty that lavished vast sums on pomp and ceremony and ornate trinkets such as Faberge eggs.
In the coronation scene, the ermine trimming of robes worn by Nicholas and Alexandra appears to be synthetic fur, Fontanka complained.
“Rugs from Ikea would look better.”
“Some of the jewelled ornaments that cost millions look like cheap costume jewellery,” wrote the website of 5TV channel, while conceding that officers’ uniforms and courtiers’ clothes in later scenes looked “believable”.