The Death of Stalin, Curzon Goldsmiths 29 October

**

stalin

So going to see this at the Curzon Goldsmiths meant that I paid £ 8-50 rather than £ 5-99 at the Peckhamplex, but my cold and I had an easier cycle ride and the New Cross Gate Sainsbury’s was a bit better than the Morrison’s in Peckham. I suppose it was worth £ 2-51 (the kind of sum which does not grow on trees) to avoid the fascist bag search…

The film is…err…not very good. It seeks to satirise the members of the Soviet leadership panicking and plotting after Stalin’s death, but unfortunately it does this by making them student politicians from Oxford University from the early 1980s. In particular, Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalin not only looks terrifyingly English but seems to be starring in Bad Day at Somerville College with Rupert Friend not so much her brother but more the louche boyfriend from Worcester say.  Simon Russell Beale as Beria–and I can remember him being very, very evil as Iago–too often seemed to be a rather kindly old gent who had somehow got mixed up with allegations of mass murder and raping underage girls.

It’s the ingrained English politeness and gentility that is the problem–there’s no point in trying to replicate the manners of another time and culture, but you need to ask yourself if people do and say such things, what are they like and so how do they do and say them.  Here, they need to be both terrifying and grotesque, not naughty ex-public-schoolboys having their day of fun and destroying their country in the process.

Contrariwise, Olga Kurylenko as Mariya Yudina clearly had the right reactions but her character was undercut for the sake of a cheap joke.  There were some signs that either she (had she not been so undercut) or Svetlana Stalin (had she ever got out of Somerville College bar) might have become some kind of positive pole, but that was clearly not what was required.

There’s nothing wrong in principle with the idea of reducing these monsters in scale to bring out just how grotesque they are, but cockroaches would have been more the level than student politicians.

The jokes got a few laughs a few times.

Even leaving aside contributions from Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky, the cod-Shostakovich of the score was a great deal better than the cod-history shown on screen.

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