Joseph Stalin’s government, which was responsible for the deaths of millions of people, probably doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you should be laughing about. But in the hands of Armando Iannucci, the Oscar-nominated director behind In the Loop and Alan Partridge, the totalitarian regime soon becomes a Soviet circus, teeming with clowns.
This hilarious political satire, heralded by critics as a masterpiece and the best film of the year, chronicles the power struggle in Russian government after the death of Stalin in 1953. Steve Buscemi and a host of other A-listers fill the roles of some absurd characters – and after seeing this film, you won’t believe they’re based on real people.
Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov The DeputyRole: Somehow the Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union
Interesting fact: Georgy Malenkov’s connections with Vladimir Lenin gave him an advantage in the scramble for leadership.
In the film: “A preening, image-obsessed buffoon” (Empire), Tambor’s Malenkov openly admits he hasn’t got a clue what’s going on.
“I’m exhausted,” he says. “I can’t remember who’s alive and who isn’t.”
Jason Isaacs is Zhukov The GeneralRole: Head of the Soviet Red Army
Interesting fact: Georgy Zhukov led Soviet troops in the Battle of Berlin, which ultimately resulted in the defeat of the Nazis and the end of World War II. That’s why he has so many shiny medals.
In the film: Zhukov reckons he can knock out a bear with one punch. He also has this crucial piece of wisdom to impart: “A soldier’s greatest fear isn’t death or starvation. It’s chafing.”
Steve Buscemi is Khrushchev The PoliticianRole: Head of the Moscow Party
Interesting fact: Khrushchev was responsible for the de-Stalinisation of the Soviet Union and he basically put a dog in space. Well, he backed the space program to do it.
In the film: “A verbose, nakedly ambitious weasel” (Empire), Buscemi’s Khrushchev is meant to be a peacemaker, but he’s quite happy to mess up anyone who gets in his way.
Michael Palin is Molotov The DiplomatRole: Foreign Secretary
Interesting fact: Vyachelsav Molotov was Stalin’s protégée. So devoted to his predecessor, he even condemned his own wife as a traitor. He then replaced her with a dog.
In the film: It’s safe to say, Molotov is rather fond of Stalin. He’s sacrificed his marriage in order to stay loyal and all that’s left is a rather pathetic politician with no self-respect.
“Palin is Outstanding as Molotov.” (The Guardian)
The Death of Stalin is out Friday 20th October. Get The Death of Stalin film tickets and times.