Death of Stalin – Stalin’s dead! Long live the satire!
Death of Stalin
AKA how to tell the story of human greed so that it’s entertaining and revolting at the same time. AKA if history books/teachers would tell things even slightly as colourfully as this, more people would pay attention.
The story is very well presented. Artistic liberty is backed by major facts. Dialogue is witty and fuels the situations in which most of the humour lies. And most of everything is in contrast with everything. People are in contrast with each other and with themselves and with humanity. The story takes some really grim turns at times. Quite unexpectedly so. It kind of cheats you to think it’s a more light hearted piece of work than it actually is. It’s not. That also is a form of contrast.
Acting leaves little to be desired. Though the pronunciations of some of the names can perhaps be a bit of a put off. For people with a little more knowledge in Russian language than vodka, medved i babuschka. Luckily they don’t over use the names and convincing acting makes it more than even. At first I didn’t even think that Steve Buschemi is fit (as in necessary shape) to play Khrushchev, but at the end I had no doubt that he was the perfect choice. The rest of the cast is excellent as well. Beria is as intimidating and repulsive as one can imagine. Perhaps Stalin’s son is the biggest question mark, because he was straight out of control and can therefore seem a bit too theatrical than perhaps necessarily comfortable without it actually being so.
Visuals are decent. Definitely not great, and the budget reflects that, but then again the focus is completely on something else. Camera movement is nicely put to work to help the story. Some nice plays with the use of perspective. General tone and the pace of editing fits the purpose.
Directing is nuanced and well thought out. I wouldn’t say that the film is hilarious, however. Not many films are, in my opinion. It’s funnier in some places, more sinister in others. Humorous for the most part. But hilarious, no. That would be too much of a contrast perhaps. Too much of a grotesque. Too horrifying to laugh out loud from the beginning to the end. Only a complete moron or someone with complete disregard for humanity would do that. Because, though this is just a film, what happened, really happened. And I am not talking about what is seen, but what is not. Armando Iannucci walks a fine line, makes a statement, leaves us entertained and gives us something to ponder about.