The Thick of It and Veep writer’s tilt at Soviet-era satire, which opens the Toronto film festival, boasts an outstanding cast, with Simon Russell Beale as the secret police chief with a satanic surprise
Fear rises like gas from a corpse in Armando Iannucci’s brilliant horror-satire The Death Of Stalin. It’s a sulphurous black comedy about the backstairs Kremlin intrigue that followed the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, adapted by Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin from the French graphic novel series by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.
Faced with the unthinkable demise of Stalin, so long revered as nothing less than a god, these Soviet dignitaries panic, plot and go in and out of denial: a bizarre, dysfunctional hokey cokey of the mind. Everyone is of course initially terrified of saying out loud that he is dead – a quasi-regicidal act, which could, in any case, turn out to be wrong and interpreted as traitorous wishful thinking. But dead he is, and Iannucci shows that it is like the casting, or lifting, of some witch’s spell. All these ageing courtiers and sycophants have suddenly been turned into a bunch of scared and malicious children.