From the broadcasters, newspapers and posters announcing the news of Stalin’s death in bombastic tones, to the endless procession of mourners sobbing as they pay their last respects to their “red tszar,” to the ceremonial burial in the mausoleum, this film observes each phase of the solemn rites surrounding the funeral of Joseph Stalin in March 1953. In the tradition of his earlier films on the legacy of the Soviet Union, Sergei Loznitsa draws on existing material. Much of this never-before-seen footage is in color; the “Kremlin Red” flowers, streamers and flags contrast intensely with the backdrop of snow-covered streets, gray-clad citizens and drab factories.
Even far away from Moscow, workers lay down their work to commemorate their Party leader. This utterly grotesque event — to which the director does further justice with the factual historical information at the end — reveals the pain and absurdity of life and death under a tyrannical regime based on a personality cult.