In a darkened film studio in northern Moscow, an actress runs frantically on the spot to whip up her emotions. Eyes wide and panting, she shouts one, passionate line into the microphone.
She is voicing the female lead in a new film about Russia’s last tsar, by the well-known Russian director, Alexei Uchitel. He monitors her efforts from a recording gallery next door, getting the actress to repeat the line over and again until he is satisfied.
Matilda isn’t due to hit cinema screens until autumn but some Orthodox believers have already declared the very idea of the film blasphemous and want it banned.
One radical group even sent hundreds of letters to cinemas, warning they would “burn” if they dared screen it. The Kremlin spokesman called that “unacceptable”; Alexei Uchitel has asked police to investigate.