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Film / The Inner Circle

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The Inner Circle (Ближний круг) is a 1991 Russian film by Andrei Konchalovsky based on the true story of Ivan Sanchin, the KGB officer who was the private film projectionist of Josef Stalin from 1939 until the dictator's death in 1953. Told from Sanchin's view, the sympathetic but tragically flawed hero maintains unwavering faith in his "Master" despite the arrest of his neighbors and his involvement with their daughter, his wife's affair with the chilling State Sec chief Lavrentii Beria and her tragic decline, and the deadly political machinations within the Kremlin he witnesses firsthand.

Tom Hulce plays Ivan Sanchin, Lolita Davidovich his wife Anastasia. With the exception of Bob Hoskins as NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria, most of the other characters (including Stalin) are played by Russian actors, e.g. Alexander Zbruyev as Josef Stalin.


  • Animal Motifs: The cattle being herded into the Moscow slaughterhouse near Sanchin's apartment are symbols for a loyal Soviet population being led like obedient cattle to the slaughter by Stalin's regime
  • Bald of Evil: Lavrenti Beria, the feared sadistic director of the NKVD, has a bald pate.
  • Based on a True Story: The real-life account of Ivan Sanchin, Stalin's personal projector operator, though embellished for dramatic effect.
  • Commie Land: The film shows what life was like in Stalin's Russia quite accurately: a society where even skilled and educated people live in wretched, run-down shared apartments, with one kitchen and toilet for about a half-dozen households. And to make it worse, everyone lives in fear of being denounced by his neighbor to the authorities as a "spy" or "traitor", knowing that such an accusation can and will lead to arrest, torture, and even execution.
  • Crapsack World: If a life of poverty and threat of arrest under Stalin's dictatorship wasn't already bad enough, there was also the very real threat of complete annihilation by Nazi Germany during World War II.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Sanchin is invited to tea with Stalin and his ministers.
  • Driven to Suicide: Anastasia is forced into prostitution by Beria, only released when she gets pregnant and is no longer desirable to him. When she returns home to Ivan, she commits suicide by hanging herself.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Stalin and Beria. Stalin seems friendly enough as long as you don't cross him in a real or imagined way that sets off his paranoia. Beria puts on a friendly front to win the confidence of the women he wants to seduce or rape.
  • Historical Domain Character: Josef Stalin and Lavrenti Beria.
  • Imagine Spot: Ivan imagines having a final conversation with Stalin as he strolls alone through bombed-out Moscow.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The songs "Shiroka strana moya rodnaya" and "Hello Country of Heroes" are heard, as well as excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique" and Chopin's Waltz in C Sharp Minor.
  • Questionable Consent: Anastasya is taken away from her husband to be Beria's mistress. In their one scene together, she's drunk and seems to be charmed by him and additionally, when she briefly sees her husband before they're separated, she doesn't seem overly distressed or claim she was raped, despite sex clearly having occurred. However, Beria is, historically, very well known to have been a prolific serial rapist and Anastasya later commits suicide rather than give birth to his child, having suffered extreme sanity slippage.
  • Wicked Cultured: Stalin. Despite his humble background, he's fascinated by theater, classical music, literature, and film.