Trem­blin’ in the Krem­lin: The Death of Stalin

The Guardian Weekly - - Culture -

Fear rises like gas from a corpse in Ar­mando Ian­nucci’s bril­liant hor­ror-satire The Death Of Stalin. It’s a sul­phurous black com­edy about the back­stairs Krem­lin in­trigue that fol­lowed the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, adapted by Ian­nucci, David Sch­nei­der and Ian Martin from the French graphic novel se­ries by Fa­bien Nury and Thierry Robin.

Faced with the un­think­able demise of the revered Stalin, th­ese Soviet dig­ni­taries panic, plot and go in and out of de­nial: a bizarre, dys­func­tional hokey cokey of the mind. Ian­nucci shows their re­ac­tion as akin to the cast­ing or lift­ing of a spell. All th­ese age­ing courtiers and syco­phants have sud­denly been turned into a bunch of scared and ma­li­cious chil­dren.

The Death Of Stalin is su­perbly cast, and acted with icy and ruth­less force by an A-list lineup. There are no weak links. Each has a plum role; each squeezes ev­ery gor­geous hor­ri­ble drop.

Michael Palin is out­stand­ing as Molo­tov, the pa­thetic func­tionary with the kindly,

un­happy face­fac who has long since sac­ri­ficed his self-re­spect­self-resp on the al­tar of Stal­in­ism; Steve Buscemi is a nervy Khrushchev, who morphs from uneasy court jester into a So­prano-es­que player; An­drea Rise­bor­ough is com­pelling as Stalin’s daugh­ter Svet­lana, driven to a b bor­der­line-Ophe­lia state of trauma and dread.d Jef­frey Tam­bor is hi­lar­i­ous as the vain Malenkov, and so is Ru­pertRup Friend as Stalin’s dead­beat boozer­boo son, Vasily. Ja­son Isaacs gets sledge­ham­mer­sle laughs as the tru­cu­len­tle war hero Zhukov, to whom he givesg a mus­cu­lar north­ern ac­cent: a down-to-earth man of ac­tion who car­ries out the fi­nal, bru­tal coup. And the first among equals is Si­monSi Rus­sell Beale as the toad­like se­cret pol po­lice chief, Be­ria, who oozes evil. Stylish­lyStylishl plug­ging into the clas­sic Sovi­etera mode of sub­ver­sive satire, and meld­ing it with his own, Ian­nucci has re­turned to his great th the­matic troika of power, in­com­pe­tence an and bad faith. Like the spin-doc­tors and aides ofo his TV satires The Thick of It and Veep, the­set Soviet ri­vals scurry around in an eter­naleterna head­less-chicken dance whose pur­pose is to make sure that some­one gets the blame. Pete Peter Brad­shaw

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