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The Death Of Stalin

Yesterday I took myself to watch The Death Of Stalin. It wasn't playing at our local Odeon, so I had to go over to Greenwich to see it. It is a fascinating film, simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, I didn't know whether to laugh or be petrified. The horror the characters describe is unnerving, especially given you know it actually happened; yet it is delivered with such satirical wit that you can't help laughing. This is comedy at it's darkest. Also, even though it is historical, you can't help but wonder about the timing of this film's release, and whether the director, Armando Iannucci was trying to make some points about the contemporary era, and Trump. This is a film about power and the corruption which inevitably comes with it.

I have studied the history of Russia a bit, and it is a subject which I find quite fascinating. Stalin was completely despotic and paranoid to the point of absurdity. What happened in Russia after 1917 was almost farcical, in a way, and I can see how it could be ripe pickings for satire. Mind you, the deaths of so many million people at the hands of a crazy guy who thought the world was out to get him are hardly a laughing matter, but I can see how some may want to use it as the basis for a parable. There are some truly comic moments in this film, as well as witty observations which strike a chord with the modern era. While it must have been well underway long before Trump came to power, this portrait of an insecure egoist chimes with what we see today on the other side of the Atlantic.

There are some great performances in this film: I'm a fan of Michael Palin, and it was good to see him acting again, in a role he really got his teeth into; Paul Whitehouse was just as fabulous. Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin was hilarious and terrifying in equal degrees. It was something of an all-star cast, and everyone got a good crack of the whip.

I suppose it's a tough balance to strike: how can you make comedy out of something so horrifying? How can you make light of something so dark, and turn tragedy into entertainment? Yet, somehow, this film succeeds in doing so. Not only that, but it is a film which makes you think and reflect upon our own era. It is comedy with something serious to say - that surely is the best kind.

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