In Russians’ imagining internationally acclaimed film star and an unsmiling sex symbol (as he is sometimes referred to) Ralph Fiennes is the purest manifestation of Englishness with its specific manner and bearing. Maybe due to a wide diversity of his screen personifications we guess that he is never playing himself on screen. And we know that when depicting the sadistic Nazi officer Goeth in  Schindler's List, a gangster boss in In Bruges, the iconic villain Voldemort in four Harry Potter films or a psychotic killer in Red Dragon to say nothing of Professor Moriarty in Holmes & Watson, there’s always a counterpoint to the visible character. There is always the suggestive agenda he knows and includes into his acting, revealing some profound and inapproachable inner world of the reserved person. His own boundless imagination benefits the range of Ralph Fiennes’ versatile screen types from a Hungarian count Laszlo de Almasy, the protagonist of Anthony Minghella’s multi-Oscar-winning The English Patient (and maybe the closest role to the actor, since he is playing a man who conceals as much as he can, firstly because such is his nature) to the wittingly stylized concierge Monsieur Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson.
And in all this multiplicity we feel special affectional drive towards Ralph Fiennes’ “Russian” projects - A Month in the Country, Onegin, and the latest up to date The White  Crow. When asked where his affinity with Russian culture comes from, the actor laconically answers: “All I know is that I have felt hugely rewarded in feeling Dostoevsky or Turgenev and Pushkin…  Particularly there's a great humanity in Chekhov”.
It should be noted, that Fiennes has long felt at home in the Russian repertoire, starting with the theatre performance of Fathers and Sons. In the 1990s Ralph Fiennes read Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin  and being highly enthralled shared his impressions with his sister, Martha Fiennes. Eventually in 1999 Fiennes played the title role in the screen adaptation of Onegin directed by Martha; his brother Magnus composed the score and Ralph helped to produce it. The actor felt some close alliance with this enigmatic hero of Russian classics: “Maybe I sublimate my  howl of pain,- he noted lately. - Maybe I put it in my acting. I can be me more easily when I am Onegin than when I am Ralph Fiennes”. In 2016 Vera Glagoleva offered him the role of Mikhail Rakitin in her Turgenev’s adaptation of A Month in the Country  which made him to learn the Russian language. No wonder he speaks Russian in The White Crow, a story of the defection of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev from the Soviet Union in 1961, which appeared Fiennes’s third film behind the camera after brisk and daring Shakespearian Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman about secret love of Charles Dickens. 
It took two Russian casting directors 18 months to find a suitable Nureyev in Oleg Ivenko, a Ukrainian-born soloist from the Tatar State Ballet. What mostly struck the filmmaker in this project was Nureyev’s ferocious will to realise himself as a dancer. “This moved me, he says. - I didn't come to the film because of a love of ballet. I wanted to make the film because I was moved by the dynamic interior question of the young Nureyev”. This experience once again made Ralph Fiennes to visit Russia, where his crew was  allowed access to the State Hermitage Museum – the only one since Russian director Alexander Sokurov had shot there  Russian Ark. And it stands high to hear from such a close-mouthed person as Ralph Fiennes a confession: “Having gone there a few times I feel very befriended and embraced in Russia. I feel a part of me is opened up or answered”.
Nina Tsyrkun