Commemorate Marx’s Bicentennial The Right Way (No, Wait, Don’t Kill Anyone!)
This year, Cinco de Mayo also marked Karl Marx’s 200th birthday and I would like to suggest that we all celebrate it appropriately by binging on movies while consuming snacks and remembering all those millions who died of starvation thanks to Marxism. The New York Times has already started to celebrate the advocate of totalitarianism’s birthday. Since our kids are being subjected to Marxist indoctrination in schools, I strongly suggest that we make Marx’s bicentennial celebration a family affair. Here, then, are a number of movies that show Marxism in all its glory:
This HBO biopic was ambitious in the depiction of the rise to power of Stalin, as supposedly seen from his daughter’s viewpoint. But how can you possibly document half a century of nonstop, nightmarish, atrocities?
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Iannucci’s brilliant, ultra-dark, comedy has a 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, loved by both critics and the public. It is about the power struggle that takes place by the upper aristocracy upon Stalin’s death. Many of the bizarre events actually took place.
Top Secret! (1984)
This was a hilarious satire on East Germany, about an American rock star who goes to that country just as it is going to go to war. The movie came out when that totalitarian regime was still around, but the jokes are still relevant and funny today. The rewording of the East German national anthem was a gem.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970)
The film and Solzhenitsyn’s book describes a day in a camp for an ordinary, bewildered zek, whose only “crime” was that he was captured by the Germans when they invaded, then got freed, whereupon the regime declared that he was a traitor and was sent to the Gulag. The zeks are forced to build a cultural center—in the middle of an unpopulated tundra.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
This erotic adaptation of Milan Kundera’s popular book takes place in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring just before the Russian tanks invade.
White Nights (1985)
Mikhail Baryshnikov portrays a famous ballet defector who is on an airline that crashes in the Soviet Union and is recognized by the KGB in spite of his attempt to claim to be French. He is whisked off and “persuaded” to re-defect and dance again at the Kirov. He is also paired with an American defector who went to Russia because of racism in the United States and has since regretted his move. A fascinating three way cat and mouse game ensues. The dancing scenes alone are worth seeing this film for.
Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
This bittersweet comedy about a musician in the Soviet Union who loves the forbidden jazz and, on an impulse during a circus tour in New York City decides to defect. The scene in a department store where the Russians are mesmerized by all the consumer goods and where Robin Williams decides to defect is hilarious.
Animal Farm (1954/1999)
This adaptation of Orwell’s satirical novella on the Bolshevik Revolution and its Stalinist aftermath was first done in animation, then later with CGI.
The Lives of Others (2007)
Of the many repressive secret police bureaucracies created by the Communists in Eastern Europe, the Stasi was arguably the most evil—and that is saying something. In this film, a Stasi is given the assignment to wiretap and listen in on a couple for anything incriminating.
Bridge of Spies (2015)
This Thomas Hanks/Steven Spielberg movie is a historical depiction, rich in details, of the lawyer who represented a Russian spy and was instrumental in exchanging him with Francis Gary Powers.
Billy Wilder wrote the superbly satirical screenplay, starring Greta Garbo and Bela Lugosi and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Great combination! In it, three Bolshevik representatives arrive in Paris in order to sell the jewels that were confiscated from an aristocrat who happens to be living in Paris (which actually happened a number of times). The three Bolsheviks are soon corrupted by the ubiquitous luxury and consequently a superior arrives, in the person of Garbo.
Inner Circle (1991)
This film is about a film projectionist who is drafted to show forbidden Western films inside the Kremlin to Stalin and his upper level cohorts.
Bitter Sugar (1996)
A young Communist student in Cuba who has received a scholarship to study in Communist Czechoslovakia meets a young girl during a rock concert where his brother is playing. The concert is disrupted by the police since rock and roll is anathema to the Communist regime. Both the girl, with whom he falls in love, and his brother despise the repressive regime, whereas he defends it.
First They Killed My Father (2017)
This adaptation is a firsthand account by a little girl of when the Communists made a hellhole out of Cambodia for the sake of total equality (with some Cambodians being more equal than others while others were reduced to complete slavery).
The Killing Fields (1984)
Speaking of the Khmer Rouge, this film resulted in an Oscar for Dr. Ngor, the Cambodian survivor in his first acting role. Afterwards, he explained that the film didn’t even come close to depicting the horrors he witnessed.
The Journey (1959)
In the aftermath of the (1956) Hungarian revolt, a group of foreigners try to cross the border into Austria, but they are being held temporarily by a Russian officer played by Yul Brynner.
Red Family (2013)
Although Kim Ki-duk did not direct this film, he wrote and produced it and it came out great. The film centers around North Korea sleeper agents passing themselves off as a South Korean family, all the while carrying out espionage and assassinations and maintaining a harsh discipline and ideological purity.
You have to feel for the Poles. The Russians Germans, and Austrians have repeatedly carved up Poland over the centuries. The Katyn massacre is part of That Which Must Not Be Mentioned about WWII.
Hail Ceasar! (2016)
In this comedy, the kidnapping of a moronic movie star is carried out by Hollywood communists, who are presented as a pack of intellectual buffoons spouting Marxist jargon.
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
During WWII, two mountaineering Austrians wind up in Tibet. Heinrich (Brad Pitt) is then asked to be a tutor to the infant Dali Lama, who is starved for information of the outside world. He educates the boy but he, in turn, also changes for the better. Both Austrians settle in and it is an idyllic existence. Until the Chinese communists invade.
The Eternal Road (2016)
This hard to find movie is truly a masterpiece from Finland about a Finnish-American in the Soviet Union. During the Depression, thousands of Canadians and Americans went to the Soviet Union to help build a glorious Socialist future. They were in for a big surprise.
Unfortunately, space prevents me from giving a synopsis of other fascinating films (e.g., The Interview, Night Crossing, Topaz, Mao’s Last Dancer, Milada, Forwards Ever).
Armando Simón is the author of A Cuban from Kansas, The Only Red Star I Liked Was a Starfish, Orlando Stories, Wichita Women, The Cult of Suicide and Other Sci-Fi Stories, as well as numerous stage plays. They can be obtained at Amazon, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.