Saturday, September 10, 2011


Cine Europa 14
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

This French drama is set in the 1950s in Russia which is under the dictatorial reign of Stalin. A young urologist named Anna Atlina desperately wants to have a child with her physicist husband, Vassily. So desperate that the neighbors have been complaining about the loud noises and threaten to report them to the police. Well that's communism for you!

Her world is turned upside down when she is commissioned to be the private doctor of the supreme comrade Josef Stalin, himself! Anna is 'blessed' with special healing powers which cures all types of aches and joint pains. That is the ultimate reason why she was chosen to heal the ailing leader. Another reason is that the paranoid Stalin has purged the nation of Jewish people and this includes his own private doctor. Thrust into such a powerful 'position' Anna must do everything to keep their healing sessions a state secret.

Set in dark gloomy and quite sombre tones, the film offers an interesting perspective into the final days of Stalin through the eyes of Anna Atlina. Although this is a highly fictionalized story weaved by the fertile imagination of Marc Dugain (he directed this film adaptation of his own novel), you can't help but believe its plausibility.

The chemistry between Anna and Stalin is palpable. Although the audience is constantly aware of that fact that at any given moment, Stalin can easily dispose of his doctor without any qualms. These encounters with Stalin take on an almost mythical quality. And their growing relationship, as laced with mistrust as it is, is simply fascinating to watch.

Andre Dussollier is excellent as the monstrous Stalin, playing him as a calmly brutish man able to inspire fear in his subjects using seemingly benign stories loaded with implicit threat.

The script is well written, directed and acted and moves easily from heartbreaking romantic drama, to chilling tension, to moments of light humor, such as Stalin trash-talking Truman or his henchman proudly discussing his grandson, Vladimir Putin. It's low on action and heavy on dark, often gloomy drama, with some dash of loud classical music weaved in to snap you back to your senses, lest you fall asleep from the slow pacing of the story.

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