Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny

Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny
Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny film poster
Historical drama
Written byPeter Pruce
Directed byUli Edel
StarringAlan Rickman
Greta Scacchi
Ian McKellen
Theme music composerBrad Fiedel
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)David R. Ginsburg
David Kirkpatrick
Producer(s)Nick Gillott
Galina Tuchinsky
Production location(s)Budapest, Hungary
St. Petersburg, Russia
CinematographyElemér Ragályi
Editor(s)Seth Flaum
Dan Rae
Running time135 min.
Production company(s)Home Box Office
Rysher / Citadel Entertainment
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • March 23, 1996 (1996-03-23)

Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny is a 1996 biographical historical drama television film which chronicles the last four years (1912–16) of Grigori Rasputin's stint as a healer to Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia; the heir apparent to the Russian throne as well as the only son of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna; who suffered from hemophilia. The film is narrated in the first person by Alexei.


In 1991, the remains of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family (except for Alexei and Maria) are discovered. The voice of Nicholas’s young son, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, narrates the remainder of the story.

1883 Western Siberia, a young Grigori Rasputin is asked by his father and a group of men to perform magic. Rasputin has a vision and denounces one of the men as a horse thief. Rasputin watches as the man is chased outside and beaten.

Years later, Rasputin sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, prompting him to become a priest. Rasputin quickly becomes famous, with people, even a bishop, begging for his blessing.

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Alexei is confined to his bed suffering from severe bruising to his leg caused by Hemophilia B, a disease that prevents proper blood clotting. Nicholas has so far kept Alexei’s illness a secret from the Russian people. Eugene Botkin, the family’s court physician, has been unable to help the boy. Alexei’s mother, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna asks to see a spiritual healer, and is recommended to call upon Rasputin.

Rasputin is summoned to the Tsar’s palace and brought before Alexei. Rasputin startles Nicholas and Alexandra by asking Alexei about his leg, despite neither of them having told him of Alexei’s affliction. Rasputin soothes Alexei with images of sailing whilst he places his hand on the boy’s leg. Rasputin limps away, causing Alexandra to believe he has absorbed Alexei’s pain into his own body. Nicholas asks Rasputin how he knew about Alexei’s leg, and Rasputin responds that the Virgin Mary told him and sent him to heal Alexei; Nicholas remains skeptical.

The next morning, Alexei awakens in perfect health and proclaims that Rasputin has healed him with magic. Dr. Botkin insists that it was a treatment he started using on Alexei the week before. Alexandra visits Rasputin to thank him. Rasputin questions Alexandra’s faith in God, placing the blame for Alexei’s disease on her weak prayers. Alexandra asks that Rasputin move in with the family and gives him his own chamber in the palace.

Rasputin begins to become acquainted with Nicholas’s daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia; worrying Nicholas after he hears rumors of Rasputin’s womanizing and flings with prostitutes. Nicholas soon asks Rasputin to leave the palace.

Later, Alexei suffers a severe nosebleed and Alexandra begs for Rasputin to be brought back to heal her son again. Rasputin returns and heals Alexei, converting Nicholas in the process, although Dr. Botkin remains convinced that Rasputin is merely hypnotizing Alexei.

Dr. Botkin vents his suspicions to Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who sends men to spy on Rasputin. A woman named Princess Marisa visits Rasputin, asking to be blessed. Rasputin tells her that before one can ask for absolution one must sin, and convinces her to have sex with him. Stolypin’s spies watch this happen.

Stolypin approaches Nicholas with his findings, and with news that rumors are circulating throughout Russia regarding Rasputin’s stay at the palace and closeness to the Imperial Family, particularly Alexandra. That night, a drunken Rasputin makes some obscene comments about the Imperial Family and is brought before the Tsar. Nicholas banishes Rasputin from St. Petersburg, and Rasputin prophesies a terrible future for Russia and Stolypin’s own assassination. A month later Nicholas is informed of the onset of World War I, and Stolypin is shot and killed.

Alexei suffers another severe bleeding, prompting Alexandra and Nicholas to call Rasputin. Rasputin heals Alexei over the phone, re-confirming Nicholas’s faith in the healer. Rasputin is forgiven and returns to the palace.

As millions of Russians soldiers die in World War I, citizens place the blame on Alexandra and Rasputin. Rasputin stops seeing the Virgin Mary, causing Alexandra and his fellow monks to desert him.

A group of men led by Prince Felix Yusupov decide to murder Rasputin and invite him to the Yusupov palace in December, 1916. Felix feeds Rasputin cakes and wine laced with lethal amounts of cyanide, but is horrified when it seems to have no effect. Felix then shoots Rasputin, who still does not die. Rasputin stumbles through the courtyard to the palace gates before being shot four more times, finally collapsing and dying. His body is thrown from a bridge into the icy Malaya Nevka River.

Alexandra reads a note left behind by Rasputin, revealing his prior knowledge that he would be murdered, and that should the murderers be nobles, the Imperial Family would die within two years.

In 1917, with Russia on the verge of collapse due to the war, Nicholas is forced to abdicate as Tsar and is sent into exile with his family. The Imperial Family is executed in Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918.