A state-funded film about tsar Nicholas II’s affair with a ballerina, Matilda was expected to be a celebration of Russian culture – but it has outraged the Orthodox church

In the midst of the frostiest relations between Russia and the UK since the cold war, this weekend Russia is sending over a cultural present: the controversial historical drama Matilda opens in British cinemas. It features beautiful costumes (7,000 of them, according to the LA Times), an international cast, lavish sets and a fair amount of nudity. Perhaps this is the warm and generous Russian gift to bring the thaw we have been waiting for.

Or perhaps not. Matilda comes trailing bitter arguments over historical accuracy and accusations of blasphemy. It’s the erotic scenes that have caused a scandal in Russia. The film details (with a large dollop of artistic licence) the real-life relationship between tsar Nicholas II and prima ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, an affair which almost derailed his 1896 coronation and, some argue, set in train the events which led to the revolution of 1917.

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Read More Gone too Tsar: the erotic period drama that has enraged Russia

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