Film Review: The Death of Stalin: Putin and his mafia cronies banned the 2017 movie because they are paranoid and so thin skinned they’re terrified the Russian public might have found the film funny and even seen the parallels with the Kremlin’s current occupants.
Putin has also rehabilitated Stalin by encouraging pictures and statues of the late ‘Man of Steel’ reappearing as today’s dictator seeks to associate himself with the defeat of the Nazi invasion.
The writer, director and actors in The Death of Stalin are guilty of nothing more than having a sense of humour and generally sending up the last days of the Soviet Union’s clique of ruling murderers.
And humour is always the best way to deal with dictators apart from a sniper’s bullet or a firing squad.
The comedy satire and black comedy begins and ends with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major played by the Ukranian actress and model Olga Kurylenko as the real life Maria Veniaminovna Yudina.
Recently re-screened on BBC i-player The Death of Stalin is a political satire and black comedy film written and directed by Armando Iannucci and co-written by David Schneider and Ian Martin with Peter Fellows.
Based on the French graphic novel La Mort de Staline (2010–2012), the film comically depicts the internal social and political power struggle among the Council of Ministers following the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953.
It’s packed with jokes, physical humour despite the dark subject – that of powerful men all trying to creep and show their loyalty to Stalin and then scheming against each other using violence to get their way.
It’s also packed with a who’s who of the Kremlin in 1953 with a crude and rude Adrian McLoughlin as Joseph Stalin and sycophantic and bumbling Nikita Khrushchev played by Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev who eventually succeeds Stalin.
Simon Russell Beale as Lavrenti Beria, Head of NKVD Security Forces was wonderfully evil as a genuinely evil rapist and murderer while the swaggering Jason Isaacs as Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Head of the Soviet Army cut a dash in contrast to the dullards on the committee. History may have turned out differently for the post war Soviet Union if he had launched a coup at that critical moment – something that was a real possibility at the time.
As it turned out Russia and the Soviet Union was to have the ‘Secret Speech’ from Krushchev as he revised the legacy of Stalin with the dead hand of Brezhnev to follow – who looks down upon members of the politburo as they listen to Maria Veniaminovna Yudina neatly concluding the film with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major.
Sadly the Russia of Putin’s regime has turned back the clock to the era of Stalin – we can only hope that soon there will be a film entitled The Death of Putin.

Harry Mottram

The film is currently on BBC i-player.