The Death of Stalin
Russia has been in the artistic limelight this year due to the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, but the wave of interest in the country has stretched beyond this historical landmark. While many cultural and political aspects have been explored recently, very few have chosen to go down the comedy route. Armando Iannucci, however, has stayed true to his style with a contribution that is purely interested in the tragicomical quality of the events surrounding the death of Joseph Stalin. Based on the French graphic novel of the same name, The Death of Stalin gathers a magnificent cast of seasoned comedians and assigns them the roles of Stalin’s sombre ministers.
It is 1953 and Joseph Stalin is in total control of the country. His character is painted in a single scene that sees him make a request on a whim, that is, however, treated as a matter of life or death by his subjects. Terrified of making a mistake or saying something that will displease their leader, his ministers constantly walk on eggshells while attempting to appear relaxed and friendly. Stalin’s sudden death, however, shakes up the dynamics within the committee. Tense submissiveness gives way to a general thirst for power, and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) are all ready to take control. Their desire for personal gain makes them blind to everything else, and their contradicting orders lead to total chaos and violence.
Brutal yet consistently humorous, the film makes caricatures of historical figures, retaining the tone of the graphic novel that inspired it. Brilliant at conveying a sense of absurdity, the movie is perhaps too intent on submerging the whole historical episode in ridicule. The Death Of Stalin is essentially the portrait of a team of baddies wiping each other out and, in that sense, it makes for a great parable about politics in general. The desire to parody a tragic point in Russian history in particular, though, may not be a friendly move politically speaking, and it invites some reflection. In terms of satire, however, the film is a superb feat in dark humour, made effective by the all-star cast who live up to expectations and give the picture a real spark.
The Death of Stalin is released nationwide on 20th October 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Death of Stalin here: