Review: ‘Testimony’

Testimony is quite an undertaking. Long, muddled, and abstract at times, but ultimately a beautifully conceived and executed art film with fine topline performances, it makes fascinating viewing.

Testimony is quite an undertaking. Long, muddled, and abstract at times, but ultimately a beautifully conceived and executed art film with fine topline performances, it makes fascinating viewing.

In essence the pic [based on The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, edited by Solomon Volkov] follows the life of the Russian composer, played by Ben Kingsley sporting a dubious wig, but especially focuses on his relationship with Stalin.

Testimony traces the young Shostakovich who had success after success until Stalin took a dislike to the opera Lady Macbeth, and in a marvelous scene at the Extraordinary Conference of Soviet Musicians his work is denounced, but still he apologizes.

Later Stalin pours on further humiliation by sending him to an International Peace Congress in New York, where he is forced to denounce his fellow musicians, such as Stravinsky, who had fled Russia.

Ronald Pickup is excellent as Kingsley’s friend Tukhachevsky and Robert Urquhart puts in a telling – though small – appearance as the journalist who quizzes Kingsley at the US peace conference.

Helmer Tony Palmer utilizes stunning technical skill to tell his story though at times seems to be a bit too clever for his own good. Technical credits are excellent, and Shostakovich’s music suitably stirring.

Testimony

UK

Production

Isolde/Film Four. Director Tony Palmer; Producer Tony Palmer; Screenplay David Rudkin, Tony Palmer; Camera Nic Knowland; Editor Tony Palmer; Art Director Tony Palmer

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 157 MIN.

With

Ben Kingsley Sherry Baines Magdalen Asquith Mark Asquith Terence Rigby Ronald Pickup
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