It’s 1952 and Moscow is paranoid after years of Stalinist purges. Anna (Marina Hands), a young doctor, fears the faith-healing skills which make her popular with patients will lead to trouble with the authorities. However, when the knock on the door comes, she’s driven away to provide medical care for an ailing Stalin himself – who will have her killed if she tells a soul. Writer-director Marc Dugain’s French-language adaptation of his novel is obviously assembled on a tight budget, but creates a persuasive climate of fear – Shostakovich to the fore on the soundtrack.
Unusual casting, André Dussollier’s Soviet dictator offers an unsettling portrayal of steely logic utterly divorced from humanity. Hands, in turn, represents an island of goodness amid this totalitarian nightmare. But the movie falls short in generating much impact from her threatened marriage, which might have brought more feeling to the film’s chilly thematic landscape. Imposing, yet slightly academic.