Leon Trotsky helped lead the Bolsheviks' October Revolution. He rethought the tenets of Marxism. He opposed the rise of Stalin. But could he have rallied high school students to care about anything?
That's the great question in Jacob Tierney's The Trotsky, a clever comedy about a Canadian high school student who is not just inspired by Trotsky but believes he's the reincarnation of the Communist visionary. He's both vigorously historical and invincible to resistance because he believes his life is fated to play out exactly as his namesake's.
Everywhere Leon Bronstein (also Trotsky's actual name) looks, he sees the call for revolution. The movement, however, is continually dragged down by the establishment. His father isn't receptive to the labor organizing he undertakes several hours into his first day on a summer job in the family business. Leon soon finds himself relegated to public school, which he accepts as an opportunity to meet the masses and start instigating social change. He wastes no time confronting the principal, but it's at the student union meeting where he finally faces his true nemesis: student apathy.
Leon is very amusing when brushing aside resistance. It's charming when he pursues Alexandra, a woman he identifies as his future wife based simply on her name and their 10-year gap in age (just like Trotsky). But the film is funniest when he straightforwardly dismisses the principal, school board members, lawyers and others in his way. These pawns of state power simply do not understand he is just humoring them while the grand arc of sweeping historical change propels him forward. Every confrontation is of epic and dialectical importance to him. And as nerdy as he is (dropping Terry Eagleton quotes), his idealism is infectious, at least to viewers.
The Trotsky lacks the quirkiness and pathos that made Wes Anderson's Rushmore brilliant. But it's a very pleasing comedy about wanting to make a difference and never giving in to cynicism. And it's insightful and witty throughout when comparing the struggles of social classes, teen angst and what it takes to organize the disaffected.
Tierney will attend screenings on opening weekend. He'll do a Q&A Friday at a reception with food after the screening. Friday tickets are $10 general admission, $9 students/seniors, $8 Zeitgeist members; other shows are $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello
7:30 p.m. July 30-Aug. 11
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net