Tremblin’ in the Kremlin: The Death of Stalin
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