Some famous films have come and gone that attempt to examine dictators through history. One of the best is 2004’s Downfall, which focuses on Hitler’s last days in his bunker. And another that gets things right, according to a war historian, is 1992’s Stalin starring an unrecognizable Robert Duvall.
War historian James Rogers analyzes a scene in Stalin, explaining; “By 1941, things aren’t going well. Hitler’s turned on Stalin by this point, something that Stalin was shocked by. Operation Barbarossa leaves everyone in shock, especially Stalin.”
The scene features one of the military commanders berating Robert Duvall‘s Stalin because 1,000 planes in the Russian air force have been destroyed by the German army. It’s surprising to see anyone being brave enough to take Stalin on in this way. And Rogers talks about “the tension in that room – he knows he’s gone too far.” The scene was filmed in the Kremlin itself, granted permission by Gorbachev, which adds to the authenticity.
Surprisingly, Rogers also has praise for one of the 2010’s best comedy movies – The Death of Stalin – which you wouldn’t expect to be historically accurate.
The instant that Stalin dies; “everything gets thrown into the air, who’s going to take over, the plotting begins here in this room, with Stalin still dead on the floor. The paranoia is palpable at this point in time.” Rogers says of the comedy movie written and directed by Armando Iannucci; “this is a pretty accurate portrayal of Stalin’s death.”
Speaking of his own portrayal of Stalin, Robert Duvall said it was one of his favorite parts that he’s ever played. But he added that it was very difficult, and that he had to find the vulnerability within him.