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(NOTE:The real story of Anastasia is one of mystery. She did, in fact, disappear during the downfall of her family, but she was never actually found. There were women claiming to be the princess, but nothing could ever be proven as to wheter or not any of them were really her. Also, Rasputin was known to be a faith healer, but was hardly the sorceror portrayed in this story.)
In historic Russia, the royal family to torn apart by the curse of Rasputin, an exiled court advisor. The only survivors are the princess, Anastasia, and her grandmother, who are led out of the palace by a kitchen boy during the raid. As they escape, Anastasia falls off the train, banging her head, thus erasing her memories of who she is. After growing up in an orphanage knowing herself as Anya, she coincidently finds Dmitri, the kitchen boy who rescued her, and Vlad, who also worked at the palace at the time of her family’s reign. They do not recognize her as the real princess, but they do feel that she looks exactly like how the princess would look. They decide that Anya is the perfect person to fool Anastasia’s grandmother, the now Dowager Empress Marie, into giving them a huge reward for the return of their granddaughter. Anya is unaware of the ruse, but is talked into presenting herself to the Dowager Empress in Paris in order to help her find out who she really is. She figures if she is not recognized, then she will simply leave, with no harm being done. The men eventually realize that Anya really is Anastasia, but by this time, their scheme has been discovered. During the course of their long journey from Russia to Paris, Dmitri has developed feelings for Anya, and no longer wishes to con anyone for his own gain.
Even though this is NOT the actual story of Princess Anastasia, it is a great story for adding enough interest to prompt kids to want to learn more about this famous mystery. There has always been a great deal of speculation about what really happened to her, but no one knows for sure. However, the film does give a slight and whimsical introduction of the old communist Russia. It helps to give a little insight into the personal journeys of families torn apart due to political atrocities, but in a soft platform suitable for children. In this version, we see an orphan girl discover that she is actually a princess, but still the same person inside. This helps us to see that no matter how glamorous a person seems, they are still people like everyone else. We also watch as a long-time con artist discovers that there is more to life than money. There is a slightly graphic scene at the end when the bad guy (Rasputin) is magically dissolved into a skeleton, and then into dust, but is otherwise a delightful Broadway-musical like romp.
(If you have additional ideas on how this film can be used for educational purposes, please let us know in the comments below.)
Dowager Empress Marie: There was a time, not very long ago, where we lived in an enchanted world of elegant palaces and grand parties. The year was 1916, and my son, Nicholas, was the czar of Imperial Russia.
Anya: “I guess every lonely girl would hope she’s a princess.”
Anastasia: Do you really think I’m royalty?
Dimitri: You know I do!
Anastasia: Then stop bossing me around!
Dimitri: I was the boy in the palace – the one who opened the wall. She’s the real thing, Vlad.
Vladimir: Then that means that our Anya has found her family. We have found the heir to the Russian throne. And you…
Dimitri: Will walk out of her life forever.
Dimitri: Princesses don’t marry kitchen boys.
Dowager Empress Marie: “What do you want then?” Dimitri: “Unfortunately, nothing you can give.”
Sophie:”It’s a perfect ending.”
Dowager Empress Marie: “No. It’s a perfect beginning.”