The last Czars: the imperial family filming in Vilnius
The last Tsars: the end of the Romanovs
Since July 3, Netflix subscribers can discover the new mini-series The Last Czars created by David Christopher Bell, Dana Fainaru and Sasha Hails. Through the six episodes, the designers look back on the last hours of the Romanov dynasty.
Tsar Nicholas II (Robert Jack), Tsarina Alexandra (Susanna Herbert) and Tsarevich Alexis (OskarMowdy) rub shoulders with the Machiavellian Grigori Rasputin (Ben Cartwright). His hold is very powerful over the sovereign. The guru does not hesitate to use his gifts as a healer to try miracles and make the empress swallow nonsense.
The last moments of the imperial family, whose reign lasted 300 years, were caught in the whirlwind of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The last Tsars also looks back on the massacre of the Romanovs in the night of 16-17 July 1918 on the orders of Lenin.
Shooting in the beautiful city of Vilnius
Although the Romanovs ruled Russia, the series was not filmed in Moscow but in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It should be noted that this small Baltic country was annexed by the Russian Empire between 1795 and 1915. Thus, the architecture of many monuments was built according to the Russian model.
The film crew therefore set up in twelve locations in the city. From the Alexander Pushkin Literary Museum to a Franciscan monastery, several palaces, an Orthodox church and cathedral, Vilnius is sublimated by the cameras of the Last Tsars.
“For example, we used Vokė, a 19th century manor house, for three completely different sets simultaneously. One of the floors was used as an elegant room for Tsar Nicholas II, while another floor was transformed into a hospital. Finally, the basement of the palace was transformed into rooms where the royal family was executed,” says Vytautas Riabovas, who was in charge of the location for the production of the series.
Many residents played along with the filming, including the Orthodox authorities. They lent material to make the scenes as authentic as possible. They were also consulted for the religious processions included in the series. Nevertheless, the priest of the church where Rasputin’s fight scene was filmed was initially very reluctant. He wanted the healer to be described as objectively as possible. He was then reassured by the production and the shooting took place.
Vilnius, city of cinema
This is not the first time that Vilnius has hosted film crews. In addition to The Last Tsars, it was the set for BBC’s War and Peace (2016), HBO’s Catherine the Great (2019) and Chernobyl (2019), the event series also broadcast on the same channel.
A company was created to facilitate filming: Vilnius Film Office. In 2018, foreign investment in the film industry amounted to EUR 45.5 million, making the Lithuanian capital a stronghold for this industry.
Follow in the footsteps of the Romanovs and the Last Tsars in Vilnius, a docu-series mixing filmed scenes and expert interviews.
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By Anthony Thibault