Laserdisc Review

Anastasia (1991)

MPAA Rating: Unrated

Details Movie Rated: Unrated; Genres: Drama, Historical; With: Ingrid Bergman and Helen Hayes; Distributor: CBS/Fox Home Video

Can a woman (Ingrid Bergman) who just might be the long-lost granddaughter of a deposed Russian dowager empress (Helen Hayes) be trained to pass for the genuine article? Both actresses bring a riveting sense of authenticity to Anastasia's fact-based premise, especially when Hayes brandishes a lorgnette to inspect Bergman's every pore, gesture, and vocal inflection in a pair of prickly confrontations.

Ironically, the filmmaking trickery of '50s Hollywood gives this tale about fakery a counterfeit veneer that the laserdisc medium reveals with unflagging clarity. The disc looks so detailed and the rectangular, letterboxed wide-screen imagery encompasses so much background that repeated shifts from actual, on-location exteriors to scenes played in boxy, stage-like sets are a bit jarring; the film's renderings of Paris and Copenhagen certainly won't fool experts. Still, as the story unfolds and Bergman completes her Eliza Doolittle-style transformation from incoherent harridan to radiant, royal personage, she displays such craft that one level of make-believe ultimately salvages the other. B

Originally posted Aug 09, 1991 Published in issue #78 Aug 09, 1991 Order article reprints