Friday, February 14, 2020
Trotsky, the Russian Miniseries
I am surprised and pleased with the Russian miniseries, Trotsky, currently available on Netflix. The relatively high-budget, eight-part series does an exceptionally good job of depicting one of the most important men or women of the twentieth century. The film takes a few artistic liberties, casting his murderer, Jacson, as a serious interlocutor, and inflating the importance of Frida Khalo, his Mexican lover, to his overall life trajectory. However, these narrative devices work extremely well, and help keep this very comprehensive biographical film from getting dull. The film does cover many or most of the important elements of Trotsky's eventful life. We see Trotsky in prison, Siberian exile, French exile, and Mexican exile. We see him participating in the 1905 Revolution, the July Days, the 1917 October Revolution, the Civil War, and many other episodes of a rich and varied life. We get to know his wife and children, as well as his complicated relationship with Stalin. While Stalin emerges as an overtly villainous character too early in the film, the series' premature attention on Stalin is useful in explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each man. The best thing about the series, Trotsky, is that is allows us to see the best and worst aspects of this historical genius. We see that he is deeply committed to a revolutionary struggle to overthrow a monstrous regime. We see that he possesses great reserves of courage, eloquence, and intelligence. However, we also understand that Trotsky can be narcissistic, callous, and overly ambitious. He neglects two wives, four children, a lover, and many political allies. He is every moral compromise in the service of revolutionary ends, including massacres and the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with the German Empire.