The Death of Stalin, the new film by Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It), based on the graphic novel of the same name, is currently showing at the HPPH.
Iannucci’s world building is second to none, dragging the viewer into the paranoid fear filled world of the U.S.S.R, where no one can be trusted, all rooms are bugged and no one is safe from the terror of the secret police, the NKVD, run by the sinister Beria (portrayed by Simon Beale).
The farcical power struggle that follows immediately after Stalin’s death between the Council of Ministers shows the absurd nature of the Stalinist Russia, and runs deeply into the themes that Iannucci covers in his previous work, The Thick of It, but this time around an added fear of execution, not Malcolm Tucker shouting at you.
Between the power grabs and scheming, we get a comedic glimpse into the theatre of the absurd that Stalin had created, Molotov (Palin) even quips ‘Stalin would be loving this’ at the height of the infighting. This film is one of the funniest out this year (the rest of the audience agreed with me I believe!), with moments of bleakness and sadness that pin the whole thing down in reality. These things happened and we are following the stories of cruel men, a product of a cruel regime.
Stand out performances for myself were Andrea Riseborough playing Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, whom all the council members were trying to win the favour of after her father’s death. A special mention for the Yorkshire-accented no nonsense Zhukov played by Jason Issacs (just wait for him to pop up!).
I cannot recommend The Death of Stalin enough, it gives the audience a glimpse into a strange world at a historically significant point in time, that not everyone is familiar with. Its funny, tense, farcical, paranoid and again, very very funny.
If you like The Death of Stalin, you should watch The Thick of It (Iannucci), In the Loop (Iannucci, 2009), and if you want to go old school, Yes Minister (Jay and Lynn).
I’ve been Comrade Henry Stocks-Fryer, you’ve been reading.