As the creator of the British political satire The Thick of It and its American version, Veep, Armando Iannucci is the master of parodying modern politics. His next project, though, turns the blocks back 60 years—to Soviet Russia.
Directed by Iannucci, The Death of Stalin is a dark political comedy about the power vacuum that emerged in 1950s Soviet Russia following the death of Joseph Stalin. A number of brand-name actors, including Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jason Isaacs, play Soviet politicians jockeying for the deceased dictator’s position.
As you can see in its trailer, none of the actors in the film, most of whom are British or American, even attempt Russian accents:
Perhaps feeling exhausted by the current state of American politics, Iannucci stepped down as showrunner of Veep in 2015 to focus on other ventures. Often hailed as, ironically, the most accurate portrayal of American government in entertainment, the absurdist Veep has sometimes been trumped by reality: Last year, the show was forced to remove a “golden shower” joke after the gag became too real.
The Death of Stalin allows Iannucci to make light of a doomed political regime while avoiding comparisons to current governments. The power struggle over Stalin’s vacant seat resulted in the execution of Soviet politician Lavrentiy Beria (played in the film by English actor Simon Russell Beale) and the rise of Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi) to the head of the Communist party.
The film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 before being released to theaters in October.