The Death of Stalin

September 20, 2017

Pavel Pozhigailo, a former Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, has said that Russian authorities are considering a ban on The Death of Stalin, a black comedy about the death of Joseph Stalin (1878-1953). He fears that the film could lead to violent protests in the country. According to him, the British-French production «could be part of a western plot to destabilise Russia by causing rifts in society».

Pozhigailo is known for his aversion to the West. One of his famous quotes was that, if he had been elected president, his first action would have been «to ban English for 10 years, but better for 40».

The Death of Stalin, made by the Scottish director Armando Iannucci, tells the story of the Kremlin in-fighting that followed Stalin’s death from pulmonary edema, brought on by the stroke, in 1953. It is based on a French graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, and stars, among others, Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev  (1894-1971), Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov (1890-1986) and Simon Russell Beale as the former NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria (1899-1953). It was premiered at the Toronto International  Film Festival in September 2017, and will be released in the United Kingdom and the United States on October 20, 2017.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said he trusted the culture ministry «would act responsibly» when deciding whether to grant The Death of Stalin a distribution licence. Vzglyad, a pro-Kremlin newspaper, called the film «a nasty send-up by outsiders who know nothing of our history» and wrote it should not be screened in Russia.

After having been shown in Toronto, the film got enthousiastic reviews. Fortunately, I do not live in Russia anymore, because I definitely want to see this movie. The language used in the reactions in Russia sounds much like the floods against Bulgakov 80 years ago, and I would not be surprised if I his saw his spirit wandering in the film.

The Death of Stalin - Trailer

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