Whitby Film Society
Death of Stalin
UK Director: Armando Iannucci
When tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin dies in 1953, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to become the next Soviet leader. Among the contenders are Georgy Malenkov, the wily Nikita Khrushchev and Lavrenti Beria -the sadistic secret police chief. As they bumble, brawl and back-stab their way to the top, the question remains - just who is running the government? This is a sulphurous black comedy about backstairs Kremlin intrigue following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.
Among a superb cast, Simon Russell Beale stands out as the toad-like secret police chief. His Beria is the dark heart of the film: a man who disingenuously suggests softening or “pausing” the programme of beatings, imprisoning and torture, so that reformists can be reviled for ideological disloyalty and weakness, and he can be credited for restoring authority. It is Beria’s cruelty and inhumanity that puts the warhead on the satire.