THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY
UK, 1972, 98 minutes, Colour.
Richard Burton, Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Valentina Cortese, Georgio Albertazzi.
Directed by Joseph Losey.
The Assassination of Trotsky is Losey's first film after his success with The Go-Between? (1971). Critics were divided in their opinions over this film. It takes a limited time-span, informing us briefly of Trotsky's life, and focuses attention on his last few days.
Losey re-creates the warm Mexican atmosphere well, the exiled man's guarded house, his preoccupations with his memoirs, his concern at Stalin’s dictatorship in Russia, the previous assassination attempt. Richard Burton is effective as Trotsky, but Alain Delon, in an uncharacteristically restrained role as the assassin, and Valentina Cortese in a fine performance as Trotsky's housewife, are most impressive. Romy Schneider has a difficult role in playing the girl, loyal to Trotsky and unbeknowingly in love with his assassin. She is convincing in her performance. The film has a small scope but it achieves it impressively.
1. How convincingly was the film introduced? Was the list of details of Trotsky's career enough to give an atmosphere for the detailed look at the days prior to his assassination?
2. What did the Mexican atmosphere contribute to the film?
3. Was Richard Burton's portrayal of Trotsky convincing? Did he have enough to do? Was the dictating of his memoirs and their replay strong enough to communicate Trotsky's ideas and convictions? Did his meeting with his family and friends and their responses, especially of loyalty to him, add to his stature? How significant to the film was the loving loyalty of his wife, of her ordinariness, yet her devotedness? How important was the girl in the film?
4. Was it clear from the film why Stalin hated Trotsky and wanted him killed? How necessary for Stalin was the death of this sixty-year-old exile? (How obsessed with ideals was Trotsky?)
5. How was Fred Jackson presented in the film? Was Alain Delon's portrayal convincing? What kind of man was he? Why did he agree to assassinate Trotsky? What motivated him? (Was the family tragedy sufficient explanation?) Why was he emotionally involved with the girl? How moody was he? How sane?
6. How did the first assassination attempt create the mood for the rest of the film? How did Trotsky react to it?
7. How important for the film was the long bull-ring sequence? How was it used as a metaphor for the assassination - the tormented and wounded bull, the blood, the glory of the matador, the applause and excitement of the crowd? Comment on the reactions of Fred and of the girl.
8. How plausible was the relationship between Jackson and Trotsky? Did Trotsky like Jackson?
9. How effective was the actual assassination (and the insert of the wounded bull)? How did Trotsky react? Jackson? Why did he lose his nerve and control?
10. Did the interrogation scenes add to the significance of the film?
11. What was the audience left with? What attitude towards Russia, Marxism, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky did the film take?