THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017), directed by Armando Iannuci (IN THE LOOP), brings together an amazing comedic cast to present the power struggle in the Soviet leadership following the death of Josef Stalin in 1953. While the trailer makes it look like wacky slapstick, it’s remarkably sophisticated and subtle in its humor, which ranges from dark to deepest black.
Adapted from a French graphic novel LA MORT DE STALINE and based on real events, the film starts with Stalin’s death and then proceeds to introduce the members of the Politburo, who align around two figures, NKVD (secret police) head Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), who uses the new chairman Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) as a puppet, and Moscow Party Head Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi). These two men play out a power struggle involving Stalin’s family, other Politburo members, and the Red Army. The film is comedic, though again the humor is pretty dark, rooted in Soviet paranoia, state terror, and with the stakes for this game’s players being ultimate power or death. Be sure to look up the actual events surrounding the film, as many of even its wackier events actually occurred.
I loved it and highly recommend it as a remarkably funny and engaging film.