There is real horror behind the laughter
Yesterday I saw The Death of Stalin and I found it one of the most powerful movies I have seen in a very long time. The story, and this isn’t a spoiler, is centred around the power struggles to replace Stalin who died in 1953. The trailer would suggest that this is a out and out comedy but it really isn’t anything of the sort. In my view it is perhaps one of the most horrific movies around at the moment. Not because it is in any sense a classic horror movie but rather the horror it portrays was suffered by millions of real people. Forget IT this film deals with the horror of people suffering and dying on an almost industrial scale.
There is one scene in the film that sums this horror up. After Stalin’s death Beria, who was played by Simon Russell Beale – and should get an Oscar nomination for this performance, stops the deportations and executions that Beria himself had organised in an attempt to boost his chances of replacing Stalin. In the film there are six people lined up against the wall to be shot one by one. The executioner kills the first three and then word is received about the suspension of the shootings and so the last three are just left standing in the yard against the wall.
The comedy is there but the overall darkness makes it more acidic than comedic. The cast is simply wonderful with everyone giving of their best and perhaps the most overtly comedic creation if Marshall Zukov played by Jason Isaacs. I have no idea whether Zukov was as outrageous as portrayed by Isaacs but nonetheless it is a master performance. However, I was disappointed by Isaacs rather boorish performance towards Andrea Riseborough on a promo video for the film. She is perhaps a much better actor than Isaacs who, in my view, didn’t enhance his reputation one little bit.
Overall this is a masterful film and one I would recommend anyone to go and see. However, don’t be fooled by the trailers because it really isn’t that kind of comedy.