Moscow, 1953. After being in power for nearly thirty years, Soviet dictator Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) takes ill and quickly dies. Now the members of the Council of Ministers scramble for power.
In early-1953 Moscow, under the Great Terror's heavy cloak of state paranoia, the ever-watchful Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, collapses, unexpectedly, of a brain haemorrhage. As a result, when someone discovers his body the following morning, a frenetic surge of raw panic starts spreading like a virus amongst the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and, ultimately, take power. But, in the middle of a gut-wrenching roller-coaster of incessant plotting, tireless machinations, and frail allegiances, absolutely no one is safe; not even the feared chief of the secret police, Lavrenti Beria. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?Written by
Vyacheslav Molotov's (Sir Michael Palin's) wife Polina's (Diana Quick's) arrest and release is more or less consistent with the real events. Polina was arrested in 1949 on bogus charges and sentenced to five years of hard labor and got her freedom only after the death of Joseph Stalin. Molotov was forced to divorce her by Stalin during that time. She was used as a tool by Lavrenti Beria as depicted in this movie to secure Molotov's loyalty. They got remarried and lived together until her death in 1970. Even though their relationship seems sincere and lovely, Molotov never blamed Stalin or criticized him for the purges that led to the hardships his wife faced. See more »
Zhukov is referred to as "Generalissimo." This is in fact a rank one degree higher than his actual rank of Marshal (six star as opposed to five star in American terms); it was proposed, for Stalin only, but never implemented. See more »
I've always been loyal to Stalin, always. This arrests were authorized by Stalin but Stalin was also loyal to the collective leadership and that is true loyalty. However, he also had an iron will, undeviating, strong, could we not do the same and stick to what we believed in? No. It is stronger still to forge our own beliefs within the beliefs of the collective leadership, which I have now... done.
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Black-and-white photographs of the main characters appear over the end credits, but various figures are airbrushed out, have their faces defaced, or have other people superimposed over them, as per Soviet photos of Trotsky and purge victims. See more »
How difficult to make a parody built around the death of one of the worst men to ever live...
... and yet this film does just that. It revolves around the power struggle that occurs at the death of Stalin in 1953, a man who had an iron grip on Russia for 30 years and enforced his will with terror, often randomly.
So when the sycophants who surround him are suddenly bereft of his soul, they are all jockeying for power while finding it very difficult to do the one thing that would get you tortured and killed as long as they can remember - independent thinking, or even making suggestions for that matter. A simple show of hands vote becomes a hilarious demonstration of group think. They all have a collective case of Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to Stalin, still afraid of a man who is dead.
Jeffrey Tambor is doing his character Hank from the 90s sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show", and Steve Buschemi, as Nikita Khrushchev, doesn't look like any picture of Khrushchev that I ever saw at any point in his life. Plus he's basically doing his "funny looking guy" schtick from Fargo, and yet it all works.
When Lavrenti Beria, head of the secret police and probably responsible for untold terrors, gently tells Stalin's daughter that she needs to leave Russia because people who are strange like she is don't live very long, it is practically a sweet intimate moment that runs counter to everything we know about the guy.
This is a bleak yet hilarious comedy built around real events. I'd highly recommend it.
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