|“‘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 their own.”
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 that history….
“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. ½”
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 Soviet Union.”
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 reel clips.”
|“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 History.”
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 period and 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