What do Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin & Castro have in common?
Watching Dominic Cooper play Uday Hussein and his body double Latif Yahia in The Devil’s Double, got us thinking about the best portrayals of dictators on the big screen (we know Uday was not technically a dictator, but he was pretty close)…
Downfall depicts the final days of Hitler as he hides out in his Berlin bunker. The film was based on several books and was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. The depiction of the Nazi Party and it’s leader was still a sensitive subject in Germany at the time, but the film broke one of the last remaining taboos by depicting Adolf Hitler in a central role, and having him played by a German actor. This portrayal of Hitler led rise to the question of whether Hitler should be humanised – which could lead to him being glorified – instead of being portrayed as a monster, as he had been thus far. Whatever your thoughts on the matter, Bruno Ganz’s performance as Hitler is compelling and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005.
The Last King of Scotland tells the story of a young British doctor who becomes the personal physician of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. While James McAvoy’s character Nicholas Garrigan was fictional, the character is based on Bob Astles who was an associate of Idi Amin. The film was based on Giles Foden’s novel of the same name and received worldwide acclaim, with Forest Whittaker scooping the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor for his portrayal of Amin.
When we thought of who could play Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, we never would have thought of Robert Duvall, but Duvall played the character in the 1992 movie which was so well received he won a Golden Globe for his performance. Stalin was filmed throughout Budapest and Moscow; the production was granted unprecedented access to Kremlin buildings during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPeRD4P578U
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu had its Irish premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival this year, and while Ceausescu may not be seen as a dictator per se, he was definitely the founder of one of the most rigid Stalinist regime in the former Eastern Bloc. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu is a montage film, made up of sequences taken from thousands of hours of archival footage. This non-narrative style of filmmaking makes for an interesting watch, but some previous knowledge of Romania under Ceausescu’s rule is definitely needed.
In 2002, Oliver Stone interviewed Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a diverse range of topics including Eva Peron and Che Guevara. The resulting documentary was premiered at Sundance in 2003 and while some may argue that this was a ploy to make the viewer sympathise with Castro, and others that the film cures ignorance of Cuban politics, it cannot be denied that the film is compelling watching. Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4D612fPjp8
Honourable mentions Christoph Waltz for his wonderful performance as the fictional SS Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds. Trey Parker and Matt Stone for their delightfully Cartman-esque portrayal of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in Team America: World Police.
Words – Brogen Hayes
THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE is now showing in Irish cinemas