(Photo Credit: IFC Films)
Making Light of a Serious Matter
Satire about Communist Russia would be hilarious if the subject matter did not hit so close to home.
It is hard to laugh at a brutal dictator killing his opponents for no reason other than being an opponent even if “The Death of Stalin” takes place in 1953.
Because with Vladimir Putin as president of Russia, those same atrocities are still occurring in the former U.S.S.R.
“The Death of Stalin” has its moments of humor, but the story is too real to make light of.
The movie “The Death of Stalin” depicts the dictator’s last days and the infighting that happens in the Soviet Union after his power has to be bestowed upon his successor.
During Joseph Stalin’s (Adrian McLoughlin) reign in the Soviet Union, dissent and disobedience were strictly prohibited.
The only acceptable behavior in the Soviet Union during his reign was total allegiance and submission.
Therefore, when a Moscow radio station does not record a broadcast of a concerto, all hell begins to break loose.
A radio deejay/engineer receives a call from Stalin’s office informing him to call back in 17 minutes.
After debating whether or not the call should take place, 17 minutes from when the phone call ended or 17 minutes from the time the caller told him to call back in 17 minutes, the radio employee makes the call.
To his amusement, Stalin answers the call and tells him he wants a recording of the concerto.
Not able to tell the dictator no, the radio station finds themselves in a heap of trouble because the concerto has already ended and people have left the radio station.
Without the conductor and especially members of audience, the acoustics and the performance will not be an exact duplicate.
Furthermore, the pianist Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (Olga Kurylenko) refuses to record anything for Stalin, but somehow is coaxed into performing again after she is able to slip a note to Stalin into the album sleeve.
When Stalin finally receives his album, he reads the letter, laughing before suffering what appears to be a heart attack.
What follows is a comical look into the surviving Russian elite such as Georgy Malenkvo (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”) and Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale) fighting and conniving for superiority.
Like an episode of “Big Brother,” the aspiring Soviet leaders have to form alliances while also discerning who is trustworthy versus who is untrustworthy.
“The Death of Stalin” does a decent job of making light of a serious situation.
Anyone who has studied World War II knows that Stalin almost posed a threat similar to the threat that Adolf Hitler posed with Nazi Germany.
Although the Soviet Union were allies of the United States and Great Britain during the war, Stalin was definitely no prime minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt or President Harry Truman.
Stalin was more similar to Hitler as his desire to take over Poland after the Germans surrendered during the war will attest.
“The Death of Stalin” is so controversial that the film is banned in some former Soviet Union countries.