Film Review – The Death of Stalin

The pain and suffering of the Russian population at the hands of their leader Joseph Stalin until his death in 1953 is an absolute tragedy. I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine and whilst some people may say that to poke fun at the heinous crimes of a dictator is unacceptable, I believe that humour is the best weapon against this sort of tyranny.

The Death of Stalin kicks off with a concert where radio technician Comrade Andreyev played byPaddy Considine receives a phone call. It’s not the kind of call anybody would like to receive in the middle of a broadcast. It’s Stalin requesting a copy of the concert for himself.

Trouble is, the concert is not being recorded. Fearing for his life, Comrade Andreyev rounds up the audience as they attempt to leave the concert hall and makes the orchestra perform again.

This episode, based on fact serves as a brilliant introduction to the insane climate of fear that existed amongst the general population, that if one somehow displeased the ruling party they would find their name on one of Stalin’s lists, and that would be the end of them.

Much like his 2009 masterpiece In The Loop, Scottish Writer/Director Armando Iannucci is in his element spoofing the politics of the ruling class and in 1950’s Russia he has perhaps the highest stakes possible.

I can’t remember laughing out loud so many times in one film, and it reinforced that the whole aim of the exercise is not to poke fun at the poor distressed population, but to mock those who made their society suffer.

The cast fit their roles in the most wonderful fashion, with a wet Stalin apprentice (and ultimately, if briefly) successor Georgy Malenkov genuinely inhabited by Jeffrey Tambor.

Steve Buscemi seems born to play Nikita Khrushchev with any of his previous roles as  ruthless characters nothing compared to how he schemes his way to the top job after Stalin’s demise.

This is a brilliantly conceived, written and performed film that has countless moments of hilarity, in amongst glimpses of some of the worst atrocities ever committed by a government on their people.

I know I will watch this film many times again over the coming years.

Michael Palin’s appearance as old Bolshevik Vyacheslav Molotov only confirmed my feeling that this is what George Orwell’s 1984 might look like had it been produced by the surrealist geniuses of Monty Python.

5 Stars – “One of the Darkest, Funniest Films You’ll See”.

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