(Ivan Passer, USA, 1992)


This made-for-television biopic is a real oddity. Director Ivan Passer has made some fine films in his day (like Cutter's Way, 1981), but the epic sweep of this production, filmed in Russian locations, and its inescapably simplistic point of view crush any subtlety or nuance.


Stalin, played rather gamely by Robert Duvall, is of course presented as a hideous monster complete with evil glances, perverse sexuality and domestic tyranny.


By making virtually every other character a decent, innocent victim of history, the film avoids properly looking into the ideology of Stalinism as a social condition.


As well, by concentrating almost solely on the wicked leader's Goodfellas-style round of betrayals and assassinations, it casts no more than a sidelong glance at the devastations wrought throughout the ex-Soviet Union during the period of Stalin's rule.


Still, for anyone interested in the way political history gets represented on screen, Stalin is obligatory viewing.

© Adrian Martin June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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