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Ladies and gentlemen, reset your watches.
~ Beria Plotting

Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (or Lavrentiy Beria for short) is the main antagonist of 2017 political satire black comedy film The Death of Stalin. He is based on the real life Lavrentiy Beria.

He was portrayed by Simon Russell Beale.

Biography

In the USSR in 1953, a day before Joseph Stalin's death, he's having a meeting with the closest members of his committee, Moscow Party Head Nikita Khrushchev, Interior Ministry (NKVD) head Lavrentiy Beria, Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov. After releasing the last "Enemies of Stalin" list and ordering for a recording of the radio concert to be delivered to him, they all have a small drinking session and are forced by Stalin to watch a cowboy movie with him. Meanwhile the local radio has no recording of the concert so they have to repeat it, however, pianist, Maria Yudina refuses to do this, as his father, brother and friends have been killed by Stalin's NKVD, she is monetarily convinced and they record the repeated concert.

The committee leave late at night and Beria reveals to the others that Molotov was on the last list behind his back. The recording is delivered to Stalin's men, but Yudina sneaks a personal note to Stalin on it. Once delivered to him, Stalin finds the note, a note that wishes him bad and despises him, Stalin hysterically laughs at this, accidentally causing himself a cerebral hemorrhage and becoming paralyzed. Meanwhile it is revealed that Beria rapes some of the prisoners, male or female, and also sends his men to find him underage girls.

The next morning, his body is found by the maid, and the committee it's informed (except for Molotov who hasn't been executed yet), the first man to arrive is Beria, who finds and keeps the note, and also steals files about the committee members from Stalin's office, then Malenkov arrives and as he panics, Beria encourages him to take the charge, intending to use him as a puppet. The next to arrive is Khrushchev, and after him, Lazar Kaganovich, Anastas Mikoyan and Nikolai Bulganin, the remaining members of the committee, they all discuss what to do now, they agree to carry Stalin to his bed and then to get him the best doctors in Moscow, however, they realize they all have been accused of trying to poison Stalin and have been executed, so they decide to get him a group of regular medics from the streets of Moscow, as they are examining Stalin, Khrushchev plots with Kaganovich to take over the charge from Beria and Malenkov while they both plot to avoid this. Svetlana, Stalin's daughter arrives and they quickly try to appeal to her grief and get her on their sides, Svetlana insists on seeing his father and the doctors inform her and the committee that Stalin won't recover, Beria takes the opportunity to close Moscow and has the NKVD take over city security duties from the red army, also releasing a new list that doesn't includes Molotov, so he can get him on his side of the committee, then he is informed that Stalin woke up, unable to speak and half of his body paralyzed, Beria hides his anger and considers this a miracle along with the rest of the committee, but then Stalin finally succumbs and dies.

The committee moves from Stalin's dacha to Moscow unknowingly that the NKVD loots the place when they live and executes all witnesses. They find the alcoholic son of Stalin, Vasily, and transport him to Moscow, when he gets there he's drunk and deranged, screaming and insulting the doctors and the committee after breaking into his father's autopsy, the committee quickly realize Vasily it's impossible to deal with so they focus on Svetlana.

Khrushchev visits Molotov to try to put him on his side but Beria releases Polina, Molotov's wife to put him on his side.

Stalin's Funeral

Malenkov as Deputy, takes on Stalin's place as head of the committee, but he is a weak and indecisive man, and only acts due to Beria's manipulation, trying to create a good image of the new government to put people on their side, Beria convinces Malenkov to release prisoners and stop executions, Malenkov proposes this to the committee, which is at first reluctantly about this (mostly Khrushchev) as this goes against Stalin's ideology, however Beria and Malenkov convince them and except for Khrushchev who is then pressed by the majority to vote in favor. During this meeting, Beria also presents Khrushchev's liberal reforms as his own and also gets Khrushchev out of the way by putting him on charge of Stalin's funeral arrangements, once again Khrushchev's pressed to vote in favor.

As Khrushchev's taking care of the funeral arrangements, much to his disgust, Malenkov is dealing with being the new leader of the Soviet Union and even though he orders Beria to stop embarrassing him in front of the people, Beria continues to manipulate him and humiliating him in a more passive-aggressive manner.

Maria Yudina is hired to play in the funeral and Beria finds out that she and Khrushchev know each other as she taught his niece to play the piano, and Beria tells Khrushchev and Yudina separately about the note, Khrushchev talks in private with Yudina telling her Beria plans on connecting him to her note to bury him. Khrushchev also finds out Beria closed the trains avoiding people to assist the funeral, Khrushchev mad at this, thinking that it's the people's right to see Stalin, behind Beria's back, he orders the opening of the trains causing chaos around Moscow, as the NKVD it's still guarding it, causing the deaths of 1500 people.

Field Marshal Zhukov, head of the Red Army and WWII hero arrives to were the funeral will take place and after expressing his grief he also expresses his anger at Beria and Khrushchev for having his men being replaced by the NKVD. As important guests begin to arrive, Khrushchev its informed of the 1500 people killed by the NKVD, he talks to Zhukov to convince him of helping him frame Beria for the incident and set a trap on him after the funeral the next day, Zhukov accepts.

Mourners from all over Russia begin to arrive to look at Stalin, however the committee finds out that bishops have also being invited, going against their convictions and ideology, Beria accepts it was him. When the committee finds out about the dead people, they decide to scapegoat small NKVD officers about the incident, but Beria feels threatened by this as he thinks that any blame placed on his men will backfire to him directly, so he has a breakdown and threatens the committee with the papers he stole from Stalin's office, threatening to sunk them with him if they scapegoat him or the NKVD. Once Beria leaves, Khrushchev and the other members of the committee try to convince Malenkov that Beria's using him and his threat was against him as well but Malenkov refuses to hear.

Beria's Downfall

Molotov has a secret meeting with Khrushchev and Kaganovich and tells them he's willing to support them against Beria if they can get the other members of the committee including Malenkov to turn on him. Meanshile Beria orders Svetlana to don't trust anybody but him and don't let Vasily do the same.

At Stalin's funeral, he tries to speak to Malenkov but he still refuses to listen to him, so he lies to Molotov, Khrushchev, Zhukov and the rest of the committee that he has Malenkov's support. Zhukov's men overwhelm the NKVD and set a trap for Beria placing a button under the committee's table on Malenkov's side to call them to the room and arrest Beria.

The funeral ends and the committee has a meeting, Khrushchev interrupts Beria to call for the committee to judge Beria's actions, accusing him of treason, Molotov, Kaganovich and the rest of the committee second Khrushchev and as they yell at each other on the table, Malenkov remains silent, Khrushchev tries to make him press the button but Malenkov won't act, so when Beria tries to call the attention of the NKVD forces outside the building, Khrushchev decides to do it on his own and calls Zhukov and the army on Beria, Zhukov bursts into the room and smacks Beria twice on the face, Malenkov refuses to help Beria when he asks him to and Zhukov's men remove his belt and take him to the bathroom stalls while Zhukov's men remove any NKVD asset on the building. Malenkov insists that Beria must have a fair trial, Khrushchev tells him he will and that he needs to sign the papers for that, yet Malenkov is doubtfull of Khrushchev's word. Once the NKVD is removed from the building, they take Beria to the garden's shed, Khrushchev then coerces Malenkov on signing the papers and the begin a kangaroo court, Malenkov refuses to read the sentence and Khrushchev does it instead accusing Beria of treason and sexual assault, he is then sentenced to be shot, Beria screams and begs for his life but Zhukov and his men take him out and is then shot in the forehead. His body is then cremated right there in front of the committee and Zhukov's men, Khrushchev then swears at Beria's burning corpse that he'll erase him from history, Svetlana arrives to the scene and Khrushchev gives him a ticket to Vienna and tells her that due to Vasily's nature he'll stay in Russia. Beria's crisps are then picked up with a shovel and thrown in front of a fan to be blew in the wind.

Epilogue

After Beria's execution, Khrushchev becomes the new leader of the party, taking the charge of Stalin, he also removes his co-conspirators including Molotov and Malenkov and it's now the leader of the Soviet Union, however as he attends a concert of Maria Yudina, Leonid Brezhnev, one of Zhukov's men and future Khrushchev's remover watches him a row above his.

Trivia

  • This portrayal of Beria is meant to look more mischevious that the real life Lavretiy Beria, as the original was slimmer and younger.
  • In one scene, Beria locks a young woman in a cell and then gives her a bunch of flowers upon release. Beria was a notorious sexual predator, sometimes driven around Moscow in search of victims. After Beria had finished with his victims, they were routinely offered a bunch of flowers. To accept was to imply that whatever had happened was consensual. To refuse meant arrest and disappearance.
  • People being erased from the pictures in the end credits of the movie refers to the widespread visual censorship practice in the USSR when the Soviet government was erasing some purged figures from Soviet history by altering their images or deleting them from the pictures all together. During the credits, Beria is removed multiple times.
  • Real life Lavrentiy Beria was also the head of SMERSH, a russian-military counter intelligence organization that was later fictionilized by Ian Fleming for his first James Bond novels under the same name.