Classic Woman-Centric Movie Review: “Anastasia” (1956)

Happy Friday, all, and what a long week it’s been! But we have this weekend to rest and rejuvenate, and then we can make our comeback at work on Monday morning. Speaking of comebacks, this week’s classic film pick is all about them.

The film “Anastasia,” made in 1956, was a comeback to film for both Ingrid Bergman, who’d been working in her husband Roberto Rossellini’s films, and for Helen Hayes, who had left film after her daughter’s death and her husband’s decline in health. Yul Brynner rounds out the cast.

Screencap from Anastasia of Anna in a gown and General Bounine in a tuxedo
Anna and Bounine.

Ten years after the death of the Russian royal family in 1917, it has come to light that one of the Romanov children may have survived. General Bounine (Brynner) takes the amnesiac Anna (Bergman) under his wing. He strives to teach her everything he knows about Anastasia and the Romanov court so that she may be recognized as the lost grand duchess Anastasia and have a stake in the ten-million-dollar Romanov inheritance. While Anna bears a striking resemblance to Anastasia, it’s still a mystery as to whether or not she is. As she learns more and meets more members of the Romanov family, she begins to grow into Anastasia’s identity. She must eventually meet the Dowager Empress (Hayes) and try to prove that she’s the old woman’s lost granddaughter and win acceptance into the Romanov family.

poster from Anastasia
Poster from the film.

The film itself is mostly about identity, and it asks if one is born with a certain identity or if identity can be constructed. Certainly Anna doesn’t know who she is, and Bounine tries to make her into Anastasia, but Anna seems to fall into it quite easily. Is Anna really Anastasia and did Bounine’s rigorous lessons help her to remember, or is it all just an elaborate hoax so that an impostor will have access to the Romanov inheritance?┬áThe movie strives to answer this question, and it may leave you with a stunning conclusion.

It’s important to note that while Anna Anderson’s name was used in the film, the film is not about her at all. While it uses the facts from her story, the film is purely fictional and takes a lot of license with the story.


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