Assassination of Trotsky, The: Losey’s Contemplative Feature Starring Alain Delon and Richard Burton

Though flawed in dramatic ways, there is much to admire in Joseph Losey’s The Assassination of Trotsky, an ambitious, contemplative feature, centering on the psychological makeup of Frank Jackson (Alain Delon), the assassin of exiled Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky (Richard Burton).

This movie was a follow-up to Losey’s acknowledged masterpiece, “The Go-Between,” which won the top prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Fest, leading to high expectations.

Shrewdly avoiding the format of a conventional biopic, the tale chronicles the final few months of Trotsky’s life, from the May 1940 raid upon Trotsky’s Mexican compound to August of that year, when the assassination took place.

The film details how the shy and mysterious Jackson gained access to the compound through ingratiating himself with family friend Sylvia Ageloff (Romy Schneider, Delon’s real-life girlfriend).

Like many of Losey’s films, the focus is on the  relationship and complex personalities of both men. The reclusive Trotsky, seeing a part of himself in Jackson, begins to warm up to him, never realizing that Jackson will be the man to finally kill him.

Losey’s decision to place the assassin center stage stands in sharp contrast to most political conspiracy and murder sagas, which usually revolve around the victim, such as Costa-Gavras films (“Z” being prime example).

Known for his rigorous yet lush mise en scene, Losey may be dwelling too much on interior meaning and mood, which may explain the film’s commercial failure.



Running time: 105 minutes.

Written by Nicholas Mosley

October 13, 1972

DVD: Sep 5, 2006

Cinerama Releasing Corporation