Engineers of the Human Soul

Stalin said, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” One of the characters in the film The Lives of Others slightly misquotes Stalin to include all artists as engineers of the human soul. It seems that Stalin was a few decades ahead of Andrew Breitbart’s politics is downstream from culture. Totalitarians know their stuff.

This is not a movie review but I do recommend this film. It’s about the Stasi in East Germany, set a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s in German with subtitles, streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed this joke from the movie:... [Read More]


Book Review: La Mort de Staline

“La Mort de Staline“ by Fabien Nury and Robin ThierryThe 2017 film, The Death of Stalin, was based upon this French bande dessinée (BD, graphic novel, or comic). The story is based around the death of Stalin and the events that ensued: the scheming and struggle for power among the members of his inner circle, the reactions and relationships of his daughter Svetlana and wastrel son Vasily, the conflict between the Red Army and NKVD, the maneuvering over the arrangements for Stalin’s funeral, and the all-encompassing fear and suspicion that Stalin’s paranoia had infused into the Soviet society. This is a fictional account, grounded in documented historical events, in which the major characters were real people. But the authors are forthright in saying they invented events and dialogue to tell a story which is intended to give one a sense of the «folie furieuse de Staline et de son entourage» rather than provide a historical narrative.

The film adaptation is listed as a comedy and, particularly if you have a taste for black humour, is quite funny. This BD is not explicitly funny, except in an ironic sense, illustrating the pathological behaviour of those surrounding Stalin. Many of the sequences in this work could have been used as storyboards for the movie, but there are significant events here which did make it into the screenplay. The pervasive strong language which earned the film an R rating is little in evidence here.... [Read More]