FeckenOdeon 2

2017 - Dir.: Armando Iannuci - HD Digital presentation - UK.

Who’d have thought the demise of a kill-happy Russian dictator could leave you laughing helplessly? That’s The Death of Stalin for you, a slapstick tragedy – and for the funniest, fiercest comedy of the year so far – from the fertile mind of Armando Iannucci, the British political satirist behind the HBO’s Veep and the sensational, Strangelovian In the Loop (2009). First, imagine a government run by lunatics (In the age of Trump and Kim Jong-un, that’s not so hard.) Then rewind to the Moscow of 1953, when Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) holds his cabinet hostage to his every whim, including the forced watching of John Wayne Westerns. That is, when he’s not preparing the next day’s murder list – a lethal version of Twitter.  

Then the old man dies. Cue various party leaders and sycophants plotting to take his place. Not since The Marx Brothers and Monty Python have clowns aspired so uproariously to rise about their station. These characters, not as far from reality as you’d assume, would all be easy to mock if they weren’t so dangerous. There’s an unease at the core of Iannucci’s political comedy that gives it bite and purpose. He’s a comic thinker who views politics, past, present and scary future, as a drive for power with little thought for the people being governed. The comic darts he throws draw blood. Laugh all you want at this confederacy of political dunces, but you can’t laugh them off. The Death of Stalin holds up a dark comic mirror to a world that’s not hard to recognize as our own.

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