State Funeral

Sergei Loznitsa

IndieLisboa 2020 •

Lithuania, Netherlands, Documentary, 2019, 135′

In March 1953, the news about the death of Joseph Stalin shocked the URSS. Using archive footage, mostly unseen, Loznitza shows us all the steps from the announcement and the preparations to the funeral ceremonies. Alternating black and white with colour (especially red, the colour of the regime), but also the sad faces, the tears, the mourners, everything renders clear the personality cult around the soviet leader.

Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa (The Event, The Trial) invites one to live through the four days of the farewell with ‘the beloved leader of the Soviet people’ Joseph Stalin in March, 1953, ‘not as an observer of a historical event or an admirer of rare archival footage – but as a participant and a witness of a grandiose, terrifying and grotesque spectacle’, in his own words. The oppressive nature of the Soviet regime is revealed through the ritual: the never-ending procession of mourners lining up in front of the coffin in Moscow, the speeches prophesying the leader’s immortality reaching out to the farthest corners of the Soviet land in the elliptical montage of State Funeral. Loznitsa seamlessly pieces together blood-coloured banners and crowded streets in monochrome, plastic flowers and genuine tears, breeding a vertiginous nightmare of the film, that awakens one in cold sweat. (Anastasia Lukovnikova)