Synopsis by Mark Deming
The grim rule of Ivan the Terrible and his stranglehold over religion and politics sets the stage for this historical drama from director Pavel Lungin. In the mid-16th century, Ivan IV (Pyotr Mamonov) is the Tsar of Russia, and rules the nation with an iron fist; obsessed with order and keeping his enemies down, Ivan and his equally despotic wife Maria Temryukovna (Ramilya Iskander) have a elite team of secret police at their disposal known as "The Tsar's Dogs," but Ivan also believes the last days are near and that God will judge him harshly. When the leader of the Russian Orthodox church leaves his post in disgust with Ivan's policies, he calls on Filipp (Oleg Yankovsky), a priest and close confidant, to take over the position; Filipp agrees, but it soon becomes clear that Ivan expects Filipp's first loyalty to be to with him rather than the church or his parishioners, and as Ivan's leadership becomes more extreme and his behavior unstable, Filipp must rethink his allegiances even if it means risking his life. Tsar received its world premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
allegiance, crisis-of-conscience, political-unrest, religious-conflict, tyrant