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15 November 2018

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Behind Closed Doors

This fascinating dramatic documentary examines the personal relationships and secret meetings that shaped the course and outcome of World War II. While new revelations are few and hardly earth-shattering, the manner of presentation –?mixing archived films and interviews with dramatic interpretations of summit meetings and key events –?makes this an entertaining, engaging series.

Extremely compelling is the use of native actors (instead of Americans or Brits mangling foreign languages), led by the distinguished Russian actor Alexei Petrenko (who, over a 40-year career has played everyone from Svidri­gailov to Peter I to Rasputin) in the role of Stalin (pictured above). The dramatic renditions are all the more fascinating when heard in the original language, as in Churchill’s exchange with Stalin:

Churchill:?What did you do with all the kulaks?
Stalin:??? ?? ????????. (We terminated them.)

As with any serialized documentary Behind Closed Doors often suffers from repetition of scripts and imagery across episodes, but this is overshadowed by the well-drawn characterizations, be it Stalin’s Georgian-accented Russian, Ribbentrop’s contemptuous gaze, Churchill’s inane analogies, or Roosevelt’s yearning to be liked.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2009