The Trial

dir. Sergei Loznitsa 2018 The Netherlands 128 min.
2018 – TIFF Toronto, 2018 – Venice IFF, 2018 – IDFA Amsterdam, 2018 – Haifa IFF
In 1930 in Moscow, USSR. the Soviet government puts a group of top rank economists and engineers on trial, accusing them of plotting a coup d'état. The charges are fabricated, but the punishment, if convicted, is death

Sergei Loznitsa's film reveals this showcase state terror machine created by Stalin to legitimize his power. Thanks to carefully selected and restored black-and-white archival footage, we get a glimpse of a trial in which everyone deliberately lied - from the defendants to the witnesses to the judges. We watch fabricated testimony combined with excerpts from footage of demonstrations against the French prime minister during a trial that was watched by crowds of people.

The defendants testify against each other, and the emphasis is on a predetermined and planned verdict. The trial resembles a theatrical performance. Sergei Loznitsa's film immerses us in the totalitarian reality of the Soviet Union. This fascinating example of documentary found footage in a Kafkaesque style turns out to be extremely topical today, when fake news and propaganda are created by various governments to achieve their political goals.

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