Rating: R, Time: 2hr..., Director: Armando Ianucci, Cast on IMDb
What did you think of Stalin?
I think in this film as he only plays a bit of a small part that they had the look of Stalin possibly, but maybe not his ruthlessness. Of course, to find the perfect Stalin you would have to match the look, megalomanic and pyschopath, which is hard to find in the actor genre, since they are paid to be emotional. The other characters in the movie definitely ring true especially Beria, Zhukov and Khrushchev. As you can see below this actor isn't especially good looking and doesn't have the extreme parts of the personality. Of course, to play this type of historical figure would be extreme. How would you get in part for a guy responsible for 20-25 million civilian deaths in the USSR?
How well played did you find Beria?
Although this guy was a bit fatter than Beria, he really captured the ruthlessness and devotion to Stalin. They have all the detention posts run by Beria from Stalin's lists put together. In one of the cells, we see a young girl kidnapped, offered flowers, later a dinner and we presume rape. He was a constant sexual predator, abusing the near absolute power of the secret police NKVD to do this . The crazy part is that Russia did not release the number of rape victims until 2009 well after the fall of the Communist USSR in the 1991. The actor also shows us the conspiring nature of all the leaders and him grooming Malenkov to be allied to after the passing of Stalin.
Did they capture the fear elsewhere?
In the beginning, we see that the orchestra has to redo their entire performance because they had broadcast the performance and they needed to re-record so that Stalin would have a personal record to listen to after the nightly meetings. Here we see them scramble to refill the audience with average poor Moscow citizens off the streets, drag a sleeping conductor out of bed after the original conductor collapses and dies. Very hysterical and at the same time showing the true power of Stalin to intimidate the whole Soviet population to do his bidding. We also are introduced to the pianist, who doesn't want to replay without a large 20,000 ruble bribe.
What did you think of Khruschchev?
Again, we have a great actor, but doesn't exactly look like Khrushchev but does a great job playing the part. I think they likely should have put more weight on the actor to look more like the future USSR First Secretary and later Chairman. The best part is capturing how Nikita is able to thrive in this crazy madness of Stalin's late night parties by taking notes after each party meeting on all the jokes that Stalin liked or did not liked. We have the finality of when he confronts Beria as he begins to take over power from the Committee.
Another great way of capturing the fear is how arbitrary the arrests by Beria and later shootings of former allies of the person that just fell from favor. We have NKVD shot, former leaders arrested and other random people shot. Even the mourners of Stalin coming from the suburbs by trains are shot by the NKVD.
How did you find the Field Marshal Zhukov?
Of course the final scene of the movie is about how the next leader of the USSR starts to take power and isolate Beria. (I don't mean to spoil the plot, but its history folks). I think I really enjoyed how Zhukov shows up and camly takes over Moscow barricades and sneaks in officers to seize Beria. Definitely, you get an inside track of how devious and easily overthrown members were inside the USSR. This was the key to success by Khrushchev seizing power. I think this part was played likely the best out of all the leaders of the USSR. Of course, the other players did such a great job to pull together the movie. The funny thing is he looks the least of the real Zhukov, but plays it the best.
What would you change in the movie?
Well, the movie simplifies some of the scenes like how Khrushchev seizes power and the actually death of Stalin. In reality, when Stalin has a head hemorrhage, many of the leaders especially Beria. Beria would swoon from cussing out Stalin in hatred when he thought he was dying and then singing Stalin's praises when it appeared he would recover. This was lost in the movie, which would have cemented how crazy the government they all lived in. The seizure of power with the army vs. the NKVD was done well, but I think if they had much broader street signs, you would have shown how much power these leaders had while they vied for the ultimate power grab after Stalin died. I think some of the simplification in the movie made sense as you can only cover so much. Plus the director is balancing the need to make a satire vs the grim reality, which may have been too horrible to watch, such as actually showing the sexual depravity of Beria vs. merely hinting at it.
Do you have art related to Stalin era?
The one painting that is close to the Stalin era is based on the Khrushchev era immediately following. Beria had created the nuclear program in the 1940s while Khushchev really took the Cold War to the maximize in nuclear weapons race with the US. In 1961, the USSR successively tested the largest nuclear bomb called Tsar Bomba with 50 Megatons of power being seen 100 miles away. This bomb mushroomed above the clouds into space and left the earth scorched black nearest the site in Northern Artic island of Novaya Zemlya. Right after its testing both countries moved onto ICBM technology. Nowadays, we are restarting the nuclear race between the US, USSR, North Korea and others. Now even the Saudis are building 20 nuclear plants, so the final WWIII war may be soon upon us starting in the Middle East.
True Terrorism: the Original Shoe Bomber - 48x48 inches
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