The Death of Stalin

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I finally saw The Death of Stalin (2017) with my bride and son last Saturday.  Most films that I have high expectations for often leave me at least slightly disappointed.  This film exceeded my expectations.  It is a superb evocation of the power struggles that ensued in the wake of the death of Stalin in 1953.  The blackest of black comedies, it is also hilarious, albeit with quite a bit of very rough language.  The language however in this context works.  The men of the Politburo were gangsters, murderers.  We would no more expect them to use decent language than we would expect the demons to do so in Dante’s Inferno.  However, if there are gradations in Hell, the worst was Stalin’s Himmler, Lavrentiy Beria.  A Georgian like Stalin, and head of the NKVD for the latter part of Stalin’s rule, Beria had the blood of millions on his hands.  However, his colleagues were little better than him.  None of them had the courage not to go along with Stalin’s paranoia that executed millions and sent millions of others to living deaths, and often simply deaths, in the Gulag.  All of them had to sign off on execution lists and imprisonment lists of people they knew to be completely innocent.

 

Beria is the villain of the film, as the film depicts, albeit in truncated fashion, his rise and fall post Stalin.  The film’s comedic tone leaves it right at the very end when during his “trial” Beria is denounced for his habit of taking advantage of his position to rape women at will, to have women prostitute themselves to him in usually futile efforts to save themselves or their men and children and Beria’s involvement in pedophilia.  Only then do we see moral outrage from his colleagues, because here, for the first and only time in the film, they are talking about crimes they did not engage in themselves.

 

 

 

Communism is back in vogue on the Left, and thus this film appears at an opportune time to remind us of the gruesome reality of Communism in practice.

 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. Between this and Chappaquiddick I’m kind of wondering if some secret conservative cabal is trying to take over Hollywood. They aren’t necessarily my thing but I am tempted to attend in support of them. (That and “Paul”)

    Hey Don, if you go to movies regularly, you may want to use moviepass. I’ve got a couple of friends that signed up for it and like it so I thought I’d recommend it to ya.

  2. I’d guess it’s a mix between people actually applying the “tear down the greats” to a sacred cow on their side, and an odd addiction to making money. Quite odd. 😉

    **********

    My husband has Movie Club from Cinemark– actually has several “free” tickets stored up, because when he takes the kids it’s one of the cheap showings, but with a 20% discount on concessions it dang near pays for itself.

  3. Don-I kept reading, waiting for the apt comparisons, the evident parallels with the tyranny of Stalin and the tyranny of Jorge B. Perhaps that will be your sequel? I bet I know who the Vatican Beria is. The point is, communists or bergoglianists, Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals are in truth Alinsky’s Rules For Rulers. Guy McClung, Texas

    ps: Foxfier: get Hubby to reserve the “rail” row seats around 130pm on a Tuesday. Ample parking space.

  4. Beria’s Moscow home was purchased by Tunisia for that nation’s
    embassy after Beria’s liquidation. Skeletal remains of young women
    have been discovered in the cellars, in the gardens, and most
    recently under the kitchen floor when retiling work was done.

    If the film depicts Beria’s show trial as being in part over his
    career as a serial sexual predator and murderer, I think that’s artistic
    license– Beria was tried for treason because in 1941 he’d reached
    out to Hitler (under orders from Stalin) to discuss arranging a
    separate peace for the USSR, and also for his involvement (again,
    under Stalin’s orders) in the 1941 purge of Red Army officers.
    Beria’s career as a sexual predator was well known to his colleagues
    (and to the staffs of foreign embassies in Moscow) for almost two
    decades before his fall. His peers in the Politburo kept their own wives
    and daughters away from him, but were otherwise as indifferent to
    Beria’s serial predations as today’s amoral Hollywood was to Harvey
    Weinstein’s.

  5. Words fail to describe how evil the men around Stalin really were, especially Beria. He conducted more Katyn massacres than could be counted.

  6. ps: Foxfier: get Hubby to reserve the “rail” row seats around 130pm on a Tuesday. Ample parking space.

    *laughs* The Baron, at four, managed to stay focused on robots vs giant monsters– but no way will his little sister manage it, and the baby? Oy!

  7. “Communism is back in vogue on the Left, and thus this film appears at an opportune time to remind us of the gruesome reality of Communism in practice.”
    Let us pray it be so.

  8. I was slightly disappointed in the film (the 1st I’d seen this year), mainly because I had watched the trailers so often.

    There were also a couple of other items:
    1) Beria did not snarl defiance at his ‘trial’. He was a sniveling coward. He admitted under interrogation, for example, that he was a syphilitic.

    2) There were two other issues that caused the Politburo to turn on Beria. One was the riots in East Germany, and the other (much less known) was that the Politburo had discovered that Beria had started the Soviet H-bomb project without their knowledge.

    All in all, though, a great movie about what a society without God really looks like. I know the scene never happened, but the confrontation between Nikita Khrushchev and Maria Veniaminovna Yudina was amazing for a movie of this day and age and quite in character for both (Yudina: “I believe in eternal life”. Khrushchev: “Who the hell needs eternal life?”).

  9. I have a question for everyone.

    The British actor Jonathan Aris played a character identified as ‘Mezhnikov’. This Mezhnikov is the ‘slim Hitler’ who Khrushchev complained of “picking out funeral pillow with”. I have not been able to find any online reference to this Mezhnikov, but I recall years ago seeing photos of the real person (same glasses, haircut, suit, etc), often alongside Molotov. Does anyone here know anything more about this person?

  10. “There were also a couple of other items:”

    1. In regard to Beria he did beg for his life on his knees. Beria, who had so many executed, went to his own death with less courage than almost all of his victims.
    2. Those were used as pretexts. The simple fact was that the other members of the Politburo, except for Malenkov, were terrified of Beria and did not trust him for an instant. It is interesting that Beria was the last top politician to be executed in the Soviet Union. Politics ceased to be a blood sport in the Soviet Union for the leadership after Beria.
    3. I enjoyed Khrushchev’s comment that everlasting life would mean everlasting conversations, something he found intolerable. Khrushchev was bitterly anti-religion and revived the anti-religious campaign of the twenties and the thirties that Stalin had allowed to lapse during world war II. His son Sergei, ironically a naturalized American citizen, says that his father had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and may have memorized the Gospels. There are rumors that in his very old age, in his enforced retirement, he embraced Christ. Maria Veniaminovna Yudina was a convert to Russian Orthodoxy from Judaism. Her musical skills, and her legendary outspoken Christianity in the face of the worst of Stalinism were both legendary. She died in Moscow in 1970, still a defiant critic of Communism. Magnificent woman!

  11. “There are rumors that in his very old age, in his enforced retirement, he embraced Christ.”
    Hope so for his sake. FYI, the only one of the bunch who apparently made a real effort in that direction was of all people Georgy Malenkov, who joined the Russian Orthodox Church, financed the construction of two churches, and became a lector.

  12. We do not know who, if anyone, is in Hell. However, if I had to bet, these guys would be at the top of the list.

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