Ivan Sanshin (Hulce), a film projectionist in Russia in 1939, is a happy innocent who considers himself rich beyond measure when he gets a room in a basement apartment. "It's a first-rate basement," he boasts, "warm and dry." This room of his own is a reward for his services to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (Alexandre Zbruev), for whom Ivan screens movies ranging from footage of new tractors coming off assembly lines to Hollywood westerns.
Stalin is a regular Joe as far as loyal Ivan is concerned. "There's probably no one kinder in the whole world," he says. Based on a true story, this film uses Ivan to show how the willfully naive, quick to obey as long as their meager needs are filled, allow tyrants to rule. It does so with much charm and humor, affecting performances by Hulce and by Davidovich as his wife, and with an emotional wallop at the end. For Ivan, in loving Stalin, loses the love of his wife, who, unlike her husband, can see the duplicity and brutality of Stalin and his inner circle.
Shot on location within the Kremlin by Russian émigré director Andrei (Tango & Cash) Konchalovsky, The Inner Circle is a moving lesson in not-so-distant Soviet history. (PG-13)