What are some textbook examples of evil
Nikita Khrushchev is horrified: "Our Secretary General is lying in a pissing puddle without undignified behavior!" Joseph Stalin literally laughed himself to death while reading the angry letter from a concert pianist whose family he had murdered. None of the party giants rushed to know exactly how to proceed. Even if something could still be saved - medical help for Stalin, who was lying on the ground, would not be available anyway. He had all competent doctors killed for fear of being poisoned. Perplexity everywhere; only the head of the secret service Lavrenti Beria was there beforehand and bagged secret documents to prepare for the upcoming battle of the Diadochs.
This feverish transition phase in the Moscow Politburo after the death of the Soviet dictator on March 5, 1953 is the starting point for Armando Iannuci's film "The Death of Stalin". The latest political farce by the Scottish author and director, based on a French comic, is his darkest yet. The creator of "The Thick of It" and "Veep" could not have wished for a nicer accolade than the ban on the film by the Russian government last January. Yelena Drapeko, member of the parliamentary culture committee, found him "extremist" and claimed that she had never "seen anything so disgusting" in her entire life.
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One can only speculate about what Drapeko found particularly repulsive about "The Death of Stalin". From the point of view of a Stalin fan, it would be hard to bear to see little uncle lying on the carpet, his clothes soaked in his own urine. But anyone who has a sense of the absurdity of political ranks in a power apparatus that has suddenly lost its head and is characterized by suspicion, fear of death and violence, might find "The Death of Stalin" very funny.
Totalitarian archetypes that are united by lust for power, gangsterism and iron will
A large part of the atmosphere of overheated, passive-aggressive malice is due to the great cast. Iannucci has put together a technically heterogeneous group of American and British actors who work fantastically in the ensemble for the Soviet apparatchiks watching each other. It is never primarily about the imitation of historical figures, but about impaling totalitarian archetypes, which are united by nothing but greed for power, gangsterism and the iron will never to decide anything without a unanimous committee decision.
Jeffrey Tambor plays the designated Stalin successor Georgi Malenkow with a strangely silky toupee and an aura of exquisite, vain ineptitude. Malenkow is a master at contradicting himself diametrically in two consecutive sentences, always maintaining the chest tone of conviction.
In real life, Foreign Minister Molotov, infamous in real life for his imperturbability bordering on the catatonic, gives Monty Python veteran Michael Palin a paranoid nervousness. Molotov is steeped in ideology; he not only sacrifices all self-respect for the party, but ultimately even his wife. Characters that would have turned out to be pale for less skilful screenwriters than Iannucci and his co-author David Schneider also appear three-dimensional: British sketch comedian Paul Whitehouse, for example, as trade minister Anastas Mikoyan, is as cozy as it is threatening.
However, Nikita Khrushchev and Lavrenti Beria soon emerged as the main opponents in the struggle for power. Steve Buscemi was reportedly skeptical when he was offered Khrushchev. In fact, he neither looks like the brawny shoe-knocker, nor does he try to adopt its gestures. But he's perfect for the role of the court jester, whose cunning seems to surprise even him. British theater star Simon Russell Beale, who plays Beria, is rightly considered the greatest Richard III. his generation. As head of the secret police, he shows a similar inhumanity as Shakespeare's murderous king when he gives instructions about the course of an execution.
One mass murderer accuses the other of "immorality"
The scenes in which these two pull the strings in the power vacuum, at the same time trying to win the favor of Stalin's spoiled children and the rumbling World War General Zhukov, are Machiavellian delicacies.
Armando Iannucci has repeatedly exposed the ridiculousness of political incompetence and mindless administrative mechanisms in his films. But the worst that his perennially cursing Labor spin Doctor Malcolm Tucker had to fear in "The Thick of It" was an unglamorous end to his career. Here, on the other hand, there is no less threat than the head shot.
Iannucci faces the blackness of this material. He knows that the farce does not have to be played in a comedic way, but that its comic potential often arises by itself because of the brutality of what is shown. "The Death of Stalin" does not historicize. It's a timeless ensemble comedy about evil people who are up to evil and do evil at every opportunity. The feme court, filmed with a shaky hand-held camera, in which the whole thing culminates, is a textbook example of deadly hypocrisy - mass murderers who accuse another mass murderer of "bourgeois immorality". Each of them deserved the end that awaits the accused.
The Death of Stalin, USA / F / GB 2018 - Director: Armando Iannucci. Script: David Schneider, Ian Martin, Iannucci. Camera: Zac Nicholson. With: Olga Kurylenko, Steve Buscemi. Concorde, 106 minutes.
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