Catherine the Great Film Details
Overview: Trapped in a loveless arranged marriage to the immature future Czar, a young German Princess proves a skillful political infighter and rises to become Catherine the Great.
Tagline: Through Treachery, Passion and Courage, She Built an Empire
Review: The great Catherine Zeta-Jones, before she became internationally famous, plays “Catherine the Great” in this 1995 film billed as an “A&E Original.” It is filmed in what I will call an “antique” look, with a light olive-colored overtone to it and few brilliant colors. Still, it is very beautifully filmed and looks appropriate for the period, the middle 1700s. Zeta-Jones is marvelous as a very believable Catherine II. The film begins in 1745 Russia where, at the age of 15, Catherine was plucked from the Prussian (German) backwater to be wed to Grand Duke Peter, 17, the presumed heir to the throne. Her job was simple – to provide Peter with a son and eventual heir. Problem was, after 7 years Peter and Catherine had not consumated their marriage, and Peter seemed completely indifferent to his wife, but flirted with other ladies. Ultimately the empress orders a virile young courter to seduce Catherine and impregnate her, then Peter starts sleeping with her to make it seem the baby is theirs. In a scene to establish Catherine’s true role, the newborn baby boy is taken away without the mother even seeing it. In 1757, at war with the Prussians, Catherine is persuaded to send a letter of support to the troops, but the letter is intercepted and the empress confronts her. Catherine asks the queen to send her back to Prussia, the empress says “no”, then asks, “After I’m dead, will you seek power?” Catherine pauses only a couple of seconds and says, sternly, “Yes!” At a friend’s suggestion that she and Peter could share power, she replies, “He loathes the sight of me”, and she decides the only solution is to gain sole power. In close anticipation of death of the empress, politically-smart Catherine seduces a high-ranking general to gain military support for her. When the empress dies, Peter is proclaimed “Czar Peter III”, and Catherine, his wife, isn’t even allowed to speak to him. She is sent in seclusion to Peterhof. His reign lasts all of 6 months, when all military leaders in turn swear their allegiance to Catherine, then she is declared “Empress Catherine II” by the clergy and seizes the throne in 1762. Her stated mission was to “drag Russia out of her mideival stupor, into the modern world, and free 10 million serfs.” In a word, a revolution. Peter was put out of his misery. The film continues with some account of the fighting with the Turks, her difficulty establishing a love relationship with the man she adored. History established that she became a “conscientious ruler”, building schools and hospitals, promoting modern ideas, and attracted scholars from other countries. However, she did not follow her intent to free the serfs and instead promoted the interests of the upper classes. She died in 1796 at the age of 67. The film gives a great historical glimpse of an important chapter in Russian history, the coming to power of Catherine the Great, but I can only rate it “7” of 10. It is not as “engaging” as other great “historical” films I have seen recently, like “Longitude” and “Amistad”, just to name two. Still, it is a very worthy film and Zeta-Jones becomes Catherine. In addition to Zeta-Jones, John Rhys-Davies is great as the scruffy revolutionary that eventually was beheaded. He played the loyal “sidekick” in “Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Country: Germany, Austria, USA
Duration: 100 min
Genre: Biography, Drama, History, Romance
Also known as: Katarina den stora,Catherine the Great,Catarina: Entre o Amor e o Poder,Catalina la Grande,Nagy Katalin,Catarina, a Grande,Catherine la Grande,Екатерина Великая,Katharina die Große,Caterina di Russia,女帝キャサリン,Ecaterina cea Mare,Katarzyna Wielka