Ela Bittencourt at Hyperallergic:
Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa once said that his films were about “the decay and disintegration of the former Russian Empire.” With 29 titles under his belt, ranging from fiction to observational and archival documentaries, Loznitsa demonstrates a keen interest in form, particularly in using fictional devices within documentary. He also opposes the recent tendency in Eastern Europe to frame histories with war and authoritarianism in heroic or rosy terms.
Sergei Eisenstein said that cinema is enchantment, and so is political theater. Loznitsa’s newest film, the documentary State Funeral (2019), analyzes how that theater is staged. It compiles footage from across the Soviet Union during the time of Stalin’s death and grandiose burial. When his death of heart failure on March 5, 1953 is announced, the word “heart” repeats in a hypnotic refrain. I was reminded of Dziga Vertov’s kaleidoscopic A Sixth Part of the World (1926) and its ambition to proclaim the young Soviet Union’s might. Loznitsa is instead ambivalent; ordinary citizens often appear stunned and muted rather than enraptured.