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'Anastasia': capturing historical realities

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A diamond tiara was recently found in Canton, Ohio, belonging to the former first Lady Ida McKinley. The owner sold it for a rich price, and plans to donate it to the Epilepsy Foundation. The tiara will be unveiled to the public at the McKinley Museum today, and many will hopefully see it.

History is a fascinating thing to behold, especially if it is right in front of you. With the news of this tiara, it brings to light our ever-present interest in digging up the past and respecting it while doing our best to learn from it. A film that explores this in full magnitude is 1956's Anastasia.

Not to be confused with the 1997 animated musical version, though that version did base a lot of its plot on this one, this one stars Yul Brynner, Ingrid Bergman, Helen Hayes, and Akim Tamiroff. The film starts off in 1927 Paris, where the exiled General Sergei Pavlovich Bounine (Brynner) is looking to find the lost, possibly living daughter of the last Czar of Russia. On the night of the Orthodox Christmas Eve, Bounine encounters a woman (Bergman) who bares a striking resemblance to an older Anastasia.He lets his colleagues, Boris Adrevich Chernov (Tamiroff) and Piotr Ivanovich Petrovin (Sacha Pitoff) know his thoughts, and they track her down, just as she is about to commit suicide. They take her to their lair underneath Bounine's restaurant, where we find out that this woman spent time in a mental institution and escaped with her life, and since she never knew who she is, led her to suicidal thoughts and amnesia. Bounine teaches her how to be and act royal, and then, exposes her to his contacts of the former Russian royalty. She becomes confident in this new identity, and stuns the people who think of her as a fraud. But, amid this, the traumas of her past make her feel like she is betraying herself in this ruse. Bounine comforts her, and reminds her it might be her real identity. Since she and Bounine manage to climb up to the top, they venture to Cogenhagen to gain an audience with the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna(Hayes). It is not an easy task, but you will have to see the film to see how it turns out.

As we uncover history, we are bound to connect to the truth of those circumstances, and to get a sense of what that time was by the artifacts that lay behind. The film explores that, as well as offer to let the audience determine for itself, as we all must do when we discover a historical truth.

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