Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Tambor’

The Death of Stalin ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th October, 2017

The Death of Stalin 1I was only a toddler when Joseph Stalin died, so his demise did not impinge on my consciousness. But I vividly remember his successor, Nikita Krushchev, and his notorious shoe-banging episode at the UN General Assembly in 1960. Yet intriguingly it is neither Stalin nor Krushchev who really stand out in Armando Iannucci’s controversial new film satire, The Death of Stalin, but rather Georgy Malenkov and Laventriy Beria. Jeffrey Tambor plays the former as a dim-witted but callous automaton incapable of human emotion, who has risen way above his rightful station, while Simon Russell Beale (without doubt one of the finest British actors working today) is truly chilling as the calculating Soviet security chief (much tubbier than his real-life character). Though some moments in the film have a slapstick quality that has resonances of Monty Python, far more striking is its exposure of the banality of evil, to borrow Hannah Arendt’s phrase about that other 20th century circus of horror, Nazi Germany. Without rubbing one’s face in gore, the film nonetheless leaves one in no doubt about the brutality and pervasive sense of fear in Stalin’s Russia, yet most of the  key figues are portrayed as being rather ordinary men, constantly watching their backs while looking for opportunities to stick the knife into others. I’m not surprised the film has divided critics and audiences, as some may feel that the subject matter is too serious to be made fun of, and there are at least as many uncomfortable moments watching it as here are laughs. The Moscow backdrops give it a sometimes disconcerting validation. No wonder the Russians have been in two minds about whether to ban the film. For me, it is something I can’t exactly say I enjoyed watching, but I am glad I did.

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