Piry Valtasara, ili noch so Stalinym (Baltazar's Feasts or the Night with Stalin) (1989)
Director: Yuri Kara.
Starring: Aleksei Petrenko (Stalin), Aleksandr Feklistov, Evgeni Evstigneev (Kalinin), Sergei Nikonenko (Voroshilov), Valentin Gaft (Beriya), Aleksei Safonov, Tamara Yandiyeva, Larisa Belogurova, Anatoli Guzenko, Vakhtang Vozba, Lavrenti Tskoliya, Sergei Nikolayev, Yuri Kara, Mikhail Kononov, Sergei Maksachyov.
Stalin and his brutal purge
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the movie.
Aboard a ship, Stalin and some other communists speak about how the party needs both money and weapons. They take over the ship by force and steal the money in the safe. They then shove off the ship in a life boat. Along with them they bring some of the sailors from the ship. On land the communists shoot all the crew members with them. Then Stalin and a comrade kill the other communists and take all the money.
1934 or 1935. A troop of dancers in the Abkhazi Ensemble assemble to perform in Gagry. It is reported that Stalin himself might be there. One of the dancers, Sandro, says that he is not going because his daughter is very sick. But when it comes time to leave, Sandro jumps into one of convertible cars. At the banquet there are several long tables. Stalin has arrived. There is a lot of clapping for Stalin by the assembled guests.
While the banquet goes on, the dancers perform for Stalin, who really enjoys the performance. He gets up and comes around to the front of his seating place. The male dancers have a contest to see which dancer can race along the floor and then slide the closest to Stalin's boots. When it comes time for Sandro to perform, he puts a blind-fold over his eyes. Even with the blind-fold, Sandro stops right in front of Stalin. Stalin is very impressed and congratulates him on his performance. But suddenly, Stalin thinks that he has seen Sandro someplace before. This makes Sandro very frightened. Sandro says that Stalin probably saw him in one of the ensemble dance performances which were that were filmed. Stalin wonders about it, but lets the matter slide. Sandro explains to the other male dancers that Stalin obviously mistook him for someone else.
Stalin criticizes what he calls "Leninist management" where the devotees are unable to make serious decisions. Many at the banquet attendees think that Stalin is criticizing Bukharin. The atmosphere is very tense and there seems to be real fear of what Stalin might suddenly do if he becomes angry at one or more of the attendees. Then Stalin starts having various people at the banquet perform. A woman who can't dance is made to get up and dance for the group. He then has the leader of the dancers give a pistol-shooting exhibition. The leader reluctantly shoots goose eggs off the head of the very frightened head chef.
After the banquet, Sandro mentions that the banquet was the precursor of the Stalinist purges, in which millions were killed. Stalin even had many members of the ensemble dance troop killed. Sandro remembers back to his childhood. While he was herding his flock of goats, he saw Stalin coming along one of the farm roads with horses laden down with the stolen goods from the ship heist. Sandro was very frightened by Stalin, who told him not to say anything about him to anyone on the threat of him (Stalin) coming back for the boy. Sandro later finds the corpse of Stalin's comrade along the side of the farm road. A law enforcement group comes along in search of the men responsible for the ship robbery, but the frightened Sandro remains quiet. As an adult, Sandro now wonders what would have happened if he had said something to his father or the lawmen about what he saw on the lower farm road soon after the ship robbery. Perhaps it would have changed history.
Neither my wife or I really liked the movie. It was slow going much of the way. The atmosphere at the banquet was at times one of fear of Stalin. But the silly little games that Stalin plays with the banquet attendees is as if nothing compared to what he has done and soon will do to millions of people, My wife and I had to go back and review the start and end of the movie dealing with the ship robbery. It took us a while to figure out what the connection was between the ship robbery and Stalin.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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