Search

The Death of Stalin, film review: ‘Genuinely funny, a wild mixture of people who have no place being in a film together’

PUBLISHED: 11:27 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:51 12 October 2017

The Death of Stalin, starring Jason Isaacs, Simon Russell Beale, Paul Whitehouse, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor. Picture: Nicola Dove

The Death of Stalin, starring Jason Isaacs, Simon Russell Beale, Paul Whitehouse, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor. Picture: Nicola Dove

Nicola Dove

Armando Iannucci’s black comedy stars Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin and Rupert Friend...speaking in absurdly different accents

Hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when making a black comedy about Stalin’s tyrannical rule and The Great Terror, would’ve have been considered to be in questionable taste.

In 1983, the fledgling Channel 4 was criticised for trivialising it in Red Monarch, a dark farce about Stalin’s reign. These days of course, ghoulish black comedy is our default setting; the way we get through the day.

Armando Iannucci’s sweary political satire, The Thick Of It, is like one of those game show formats that is franchised off all over the world. Iannucci oversaw the American version, Veep, but every nation could have one. Now he has moved it into the realms of costume drama with this version of Stalin’s final day and the squabble for power afterward between Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and the head of NKVD secret police Beria (Simon Russell Beale).

Retrofitting it to the USSR has required some tinkering with the formula. The absurdities are pushed a bit further. While previous Iannucci’s satires went on inside Westminster/ Washington bubbles, here the brutal consequences – executions, round ups, rapes - happen on screen. As soon as the main players have moved off screen, armed forces will sweep in to massacre the extras.

The film is genuinely funny and casually chilling. The cast is a wild mixture of people who have no place being in a film together, and the film plays on the absurdity of this collection by having them play their roles in a variety of accents.

The movie cements Iannucci’s position as the foremost satirist of his age, though I wonder perhaps what we have gained from his work. His portrait of our insular politic classes as shallow, lazy and completely removed from reality only seems to have given them license to be shallower, lazier and even more removed from reality.

Similarly, history tells us showing up tyrants as buffoons doesn’t put the slightest dent in their appeal. Indeed, clown face is how all fascism now presents itself, coming at us with clown hair, clown bluster and clown childrens’ names.

halfmanhalfcritic.com the blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s The Thing and the re-release of North By Northwest.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

The contrast between the two managers during their post-match interviews could not have been more pronounced. While tired-looking Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger bemoaned bad luck but refused to address the gulf in class between the two sides – as Manchester City routed the Gunners 3-0 at Wembley to deservedly lift the 2018 Caraboa Cup – Pep Guardiola spoke powerfully and eloquently about Catalonian independence and his support for jailed politicians.

Arsene Wenger bemoaned bad luck as his team were utterly outplayed by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as they beat sorry Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal took on Manchester City in the 2018 Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Read Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif’s PLAYER RATINGS from the showpiece match.

Pep Guardiola won his 22nd trophy as a manager as his Manchester City side comprehensively beat Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Premier League: Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Yesterday, 14:24

Ben Pearce reflects on Spurs’ important Premier League win at Selhurst Park earlier today

Yesterday, 10:20

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger replied immediately when asked the question.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sunday’s League Cup final is eagerly-awaited by a large number of Arsenal fans. Read on as a number of loyal supporters explained to Layth Yousif what the trophy means to them.

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists