Matilda, a movie about the last Russian czar's affair with a ballerina, isn't due to be released in Russia until October, but it's already sparked harsh criticism and, it seems, arrests. Russian police have detained four people suspected of an arson attack linked to the movie, officials said Thursday. The film loosely follows the story of Nicholas II's infatuation with prima ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, and hard-line nationalists and some Orthodox believers in Russia see it as blasphemy against the emperor. He and his family were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in July 1918. The Russian Orthodox Church made them saints in 2000, reports the AP.
Two cars were set on fire last week outside the office of the attorney for the film's director and signs reading "burn for Matilda" were reportedly found near the scene. Last month, assailants tried to set fire to the director's film studio. Police spokeswoman Irina Volk said in a statement Thursday that three of the detained have been charged with arson. They include Alexander Kalinin, the leader of an obscure Christian Orthodox group who has publicly condoned the attacks. The controversy around the film has highlighted the increasing assertiveness of radical religious activists and a growing conservative streak in Russia's society that worried many in the nation's artistic community. (Read more Czar Nicholas II stories.)