Monday, November 20, 2017

Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great (Season 1, 2014)

The Ekaterina series on Amazon Prime has to be the best and most accurate historical drama about Empress Catherine II of Russia yet made. The Russian production emphasizes the enigmatic Catherine's spiritual journey as she turns from the Lutheranism of her youth and embraces Orthodoxy, ultimately keeping the country from becoming Protestant under her husband, Peter III. While any portrait of Catherine can hardly ignore her obsessive search for love, the series avoids any exploitative, graphic scenes, in sharp contrast to most of the shows about royalty on Netflix. Marina Aleksandrova stars as the shy and studious Princess Sophie Friederike of Anhalt-Zerbst, who through many tears and hard lessons is transformed into the Great Catherine. Mademoiselle Aleksandrovna is able to accomplish the metamorphosis from gauche, romantic teenager into the shrewdly calculating and determined Empress who must conquer or die. Overthrowing her husband Peter III was the only way she could avoid being killed or separated from her children. By doing so she saved Russia from a ruler who hated his own country and wanted to destroy it.

Filmed on location in Russia, the viewers are afforded a glimpse of the magnificent palaces built by the Romanov dynasty, throughout the various seasons of the year. The costumes are likewise authentic mid-eighteenth century. The Russian Orthodox liturgy and iconography are given pride of place. Julia Aug is the mercurial, unscrupulous Empress Elizabeth who arranges Catherine's marriage to her dreadful nephew Peter,  later taking Catherine's son away from her the moment he is born. Meanwhile, Peter publicly flaunts his dislike of Catherine and his affair with another woman. Peter, played by Aleksander Yatsenko, is a frustrating and pathetic character whom Catherine tries her best to love amid seemingly endless humiliations. The torment that the young Catherine experiences as a scorned wife and a thwarted mother in a court surrounded by enemies explains the consolation she eventually seeks in love affairs. Mademoiselle Aleksandrovna does an excellent job in conveying the subtle charm of Catherine and her remarkable ability to win people to her cause when she was a non-royal, powerless foreigner. It was that very vulnerability that won followers, as well as her brains and her genuine love for the Russia. In spite of her personal moral failings, she saves Russia as a nation and protects the Russian Orthodox Church from Protestantism.



Unknown said...

She was raised Lutheran.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, that is mentioned in the second sentence of the review.