Reviews of Stalin's Wife
"'Stalin's Wife,' a dense biographical collage of images
and memories of this Soviet dictator's wife, Nadezhda Alliluyev, has a
paradoxical quality peculiar to speculative documentary portraits.
While many of the basic facts of her life are in dispute, the film,
directed by Slava Tsukerman ('Liquid Sky'), evokes a
fairly defined portrait of a strong, decisive, well-educated woman
destroyed by a husband increasingly consumed by the paranoia that
often envelops dictatorships. . . .
"With its clouds of doubt and uncertainty, 'Stalin's Wife' reminds us that history is only an official interpretation of selected facts that when examined often turn out to be educated guesses."
The New York Times
"... [A]n intimate, chatty film, both cheeky and thorough ... Apparently
indefatigable, Tsukerman has tracked down all manner of people and
persuaded them to talk on camera ... Tsukerman, best known for the science-fiction
cult film 'Liquid Sky,' doesn't try to come up with
conclusive answers: He rightly figures just reporting the rival
stories will be enticing enough."
"At first glance, it seems unlikely that Slava Tsukerman,
who directed the sexy cult classic 'Liquid Sky,'
would also make a straightforward documentary on Russian
History. As it turns out, though, there's plenty of passion
beneath this movie's unadorned surface."
New York Daily News
"The tragic story of the teenage girl who would become
wife to future Russian dictator Joseph Stalin is laid out in
forcefully dramatic fashion in this superior documentary by
Liquid Sky director Slava Tsukerman. Only 16 when she wedded
39-year-old Stalin, Nadezhda Alliluyev is a strangely passive
figure for a biographical documentary, but that seems to be
precisely the point: She was eyewitness to Stalin's transformation
into one of the most notorious tyrants of all time, yet virtually
forgotten by history and her own people. Tsukerman clearly means
to make Alliluyev a metaphor for Russia itself, but he wisely
lets the analogy develop organically without the kind of
intrusive commentary that too often crooks politically themed
documentaries. But it's also worth noting that this is
no mere History Channel regurgitation of easily accessible
facts. Extensive research and some compelling historical
detective work have gone into reconstructing a period that
even Russians seem loath to revisit. In the end, viewers will
be left with more questions than answers, but they're
the tough questions which, in an age of growing political
friction and conflict, too few seem willing to ask on
Wade Major, LA City Beat
"Using newly found archival documents coupled with
interviews of family members, friends and historians,
director Slava Tsukerman challenges viewers to consider
unsolved mysteries as he presents contradictory accounts
of events and little known facts about Nadezhda...
"Stalin's Wife opens with the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller, with panning shots of Moscow cloaked in darkness and a soundtrack of staccato-like music .... this compelling documentary is both thought-provoking and surprising in its details."
Deborah Lynn Blumberg, Film-Forward.com
"How did Stalin's wife die? Suicide?
Murder? Writer-director Slava Tsukerman's fascinating
new documentary, 'Stalin's Wife' explores the various
theories and the legends. There really isn't any definitive
answer to the mystery, but the film's strength lies
in the evocation of Soviet history and a highlighting of the
turbulent times and attention to key characters who were part of
"The challenge faced by the director is to add a visual dimension to this dip into history, and it is met with film clips from the era, with lots of stills showing key individuals involved, all interwoven artistically with the talking-head portions. One gets a sense of the turbulence of the revolution, its aftermath, the early efforts to transform the poor, backward Russia into a modern state and the beginnings of the terror that followed ....
"Obviously, a film like this can only touch the surface of what happened historically, but in trying to trace the life of this young woman, a window is opened on the world in which she lived and died."
On Line Review
"This is a complete eye-opening document on the Soviet dictator
and his long suffering wife.
North American Film Review
"'Stalin's Wife' is a fascinating documentary about an
otherwise-forgotten character in history. It's a sad story of the
woman who was married to the man who'd become amass murderer and
iron-fisted dictator. How they came up with some of
the footage is amazing."
"'Stalin's Wife' offers a fascinating tapestry of love,
madness, politics, suspicions and jealousies against one of the most
tumultuous backdrops of the 20th century . . . provides an extraordinary
journey into the darker corners of Russian history."
"Fascinating investigation of the life and fate of Stalin's
young wife, shrouded in murky Russian history. 'Stalin's Wife'
is as illuminating, trenchant and penetrating as any fiction film.
Additionally, it proves that writer-director Tsukerman doesn't need
space aliens in his stories to devise a fascinating picture."
"Best known for 1982's cult classic Liquid Sky, Slava Tsukerman combines archival footage, interviews with scholars and relatives, and plummy voice-over to dutifully recap the short life of his subject. . . . 'Perhaps if another woman, with less spiritual demands, had been close to Stalin, things would have been different,' suggests the dictator's grandson, referring to the barbarity that would ravage the Soviet Union. Yet Tsukerman is not interested in disproving or discounting theories, but merely assembling them."
"There are numerous rumors about Stalin's wife, including even
the most unbelievable one, that Stalin (23 years her senior) was
in fact her father. Tsukerman's film is an attempt to solve the
mysteries of Russia's unfathomable past.
Vecherniy New York
"Tsukerman discovers so much of new unexpected
material and presents it with so unexpected an
angle that [the] film holds
your attention all the way through, mesmerizes you."
"Slava Tsukerman's 'Stalin's Wife' is
the first major documentary exploration of the psychopathology of
the Red Czar. Kremlin insiders, many for the first time, discuss the
circumstances of the suicide, or murder, of Stalin's wife in the early
thirties. In doing so, they shockingly reveal the motives and methods
of one of the most enigmatic leaders before his descent into tyrannical
paranoia and national savagery. Beautifully crafted, the film
itself is a revelation..."
Melvin Gordon, PhD, Professor
University of California at Berkley
"Stalin's Wife has a Tolstoyan density, telling stories within
stories. The movie draws from archives that were once inaccessible,
and talks to Stalin's living relatives..."
"Mr. Tsukerman has done an exceptionally
good job of collecting rare archival
material and interviewing surviving relatives
and contemporaries and carefully
incorporating the material into a powerful
documentary narrative. I have no doubt
that this film will be a valuable source of
information about Russia and the former
Leo Stern, Voice of America
"If you have the slightest curiousity about the people
and the period, 'Stalin's Wife' is mandatory viewing."
New York Observer
"The film along with the main
story of Stalin and his wifes relationship,
give a very educational
overview of the early history of
USSR, using extraordinary news
"Slava Tsukerman's film is a fascinating look at
one of Russia's most enigmatic historical figures, Stalin's
wife. ..... Mr.Tsukerman masterfully fulfills the role of the
detached observer, letting the viewers form their own opinions.
He provides an impressive visual backdrop to the tragic events of
the thirties, using some footage that has not been widely known
either in the West or in Russia.
"The heated discussions among historians and witnesses of the events fuel speculation. Though Tsukerman never quite answers any of the questions himself, he poses a great many for the viewer to ponder. Who was this tragic Russian heroine? Was she really Stalin's daughter, as many historians seem to suggest? Was she murdered by her husband (possibly her own father) or did she commit suicide? And what really was the effect of her life and death on the peoples of the Soviet Union?
"The film's relevance should not be underestimated. Tsukerman's film is significant because it helps to examine Stalin as a real person, instead of a symbol."
Azary Messerer, PhD
Professor of Literature
"The film portrays the personality
of Stalin, his little
known antecedents, and yet
offers a multifaceted picture
of the dictator . . . An outstanding
work of art and research,
the film would be
great use in a class of Soviet
Yakov M Rabkin, Ph.D.
Department of History
University of Montreal
"I would certainly use 'Stalin's Wife'
in courses I teach on aspects of Soviet history. It's
crammed with much fascinating
detail about the whole
its personalities...probing of the
mysteries...letting people speak
for themselves, and not insisting
on a single dogmatic conclusion."
Louis Menashe, PhD
Professor of Russian History
Polytechnic University of New York