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State Funeral

Dir: Sergei Loznitsa
Netherlands / Lithuania / 2019 / 135mins

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Moscow, March 1953: in the days following the death of Joseph Stalin, countless citizens flooded the Red Square to mourn their leader’s loss and witness his burial in Lenin’s Tomb. Though the parade of pomp and circumstance was captured in detail by 200 cameramen, their footage has remained largely unseen in the intervening decades.

Working from 40 hours of revelatory archival material — stunningly restored in both crisp black-and-white and vivid color — master filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa (The Event, The Trial) has crafted one of his most astonishing nonfiction achievements. Monumental in both its scope and scale, State Funeral provides an eerily immediate recreation of this historical spectacle.

Loznitsa immerses us in the elegiac ceremony and constructs an eye-opening vision of the Soviet Union, from the staggering procession of mourners at the coffin to the stirring public speeches given by prominent party members. In the process, he presents an all-too-timely commentary on the terrifying absurdities inherent in totalitarianism and the cult of personality.