Armando Iannucci on the Tragedy and Comedy of ‘The Death of Stalin’ and Needing to Dial Down History

Armando Iannucci has spent the last decade of his career lampooning the contemporary politics of America and the United Kingdom in projects like Veep, The Thick of It, and In the Loop, but his new film directs his considerable satiric skills at a simultaneously perversely appropriate and unlikely target: Stalin-era Soviet Union. An adaptation of Fabian Nury and Thierry Robin’s graphic novel dramatization of the same name, The Death of Stalin is filled with Iannucci’s trademark barbs at institutional efficiency and labyrinthian insults but also freighted with a newfound urgency in his filmmaking.

With an unimpeachable cast of movie stars, TV stars, and even stage legends, The Death of Stalin makes a feast of the banal and horrifying absurdities that were commonplace during the period without losing the persistent undercurrent of tragedy and anxiety. Less a historical recreation than a comedic channeling of the spirit of the time,

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