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Rasputin isn’t the film’s worst historical inaccuracy

Rasputin’s King’s Man version is a savage historical figure, but it’s not the film’s most absurd historical portrayal.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The King’s Man, which is now playing in theaters

One of the most entertaining aspects of The king’s man – the prequel entry of WWI in the popular action film series – is Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), who brings a tremendous amount of energy to the character. He’s only been in the movie for a little while, but he quickly established himself as one of the most over-the-top and entertaining characters in the movie. But while Rasputin portrayed in The king’s man is a far cry from the real-life historical figure, the film’s craziest historical deviation might be its portrayal of Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner) as a villainous seductress working alongside him.

In real life, Rasputin was a “stannik” – an unofficial monk within the Russian Orthodox faith. A very controversial figure in Russia at the turn of the century, he nevertheless acquired notoriety thanks to his friendship with the Emperor of Russia. His influence ultimately led to his assassination, and his legacy has remained a point of contention in popular culture. Rasputin as described in The king’s man is an agent of the “Shephard”, a mysterious leader of a global cabal who intends to open a world war to profit from the chaos and take revenge in private against one of the nations caught in the crosshairs.

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Rasputin is portrayed as an enigmatic yet charming boor – quick to flirt and quicker to fight. He only plays a minor role in the film’s overall narrative but quickly becomes one of its most memorable elements thanks to his odd chemistry with Orlando (Ralph Fiennes) and an impressive fight streak against Shola (Djimon Hounsou). But while Rasputin’s real life was different from the one depicted on-screen, it is a far cry from the character assassination Mata Hari receives.

In The king’s man, Mata Hari is part of the same conspiracy as Rasputin and is treated like a femme fatale member of their order. She is sent to the White House and seduces Woodrow Wilson, giving the cabal blackmail material they use to keep the United States out of the conflict. She is confronted and defeated by Orlando, and she ultimately leaves little personal impact on the film. A major plot point in the film’s third act revolves around capturing the only cinematic evidence of Wilson’s infidelity with Hari, securing America’s participation in the war. But in real life, Mata Hari – née Margaretha Zelle – was a tragic figure during WWI. Dutch-born courtesan, Hari eventually became one of the early icons of the modern dance movement and part of bohemian culture. before the first world war.

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She was recruited by the French army to serve as a spy against the German monarchy during the war. But she was then painted as an agent of the German forces in the eyes of the French army and eventually arrested. Although no concrete evidence could be produced to prove her double agent status, the French government ultimately convicted her and had her executed, despite her constant protests that she was innocent. In the 21st century, activists argued that Zelle deserved to be posthumously exonerated from the crimes she was accused of committing, claiming her death was more the result of the French military looking for a scapegoat. to explain the defeats during the war as real suspicion of espionage.

Mata Hari remains a controversial figure in real life to this day, so it’s somewhat surprising to see the character portrayed, as one trailer describes her, as one of the “most evil legends in history.” She has little real character, and her tragic and complex story is warped into a more basic, one-note figure. Although there are many historical figures altered to fit the narrative of The king’s man, Mata Hari’s might be one of the most surprising, considering its real-life counterpart.

To see Rasputin and Mata Hari in The King’s Man, the film is currently in theaters

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