Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The Death of Stalin (2017)

When I first saw the coming attractions for The Death of Stalin, it appeared to be a comedy.  IMDb even has it listed as such.  I realize that satire doesn’t necessarily have to use humor.  I was just under the impression that this movie was going to use more than a little.

For those that haven’t seen the coming attractions, the movie takes place during the days surrounding the titular event.  A woman who despises Stalin finds out that a recording is to be made of her performance and delivered to the leader of the Soviet Union.  She includes a note that, when Stalin reads it, causes his him to collapse. 

Stalin is discovered the next morning, barely alive.  The Central Committee is assembled to decide what to do.  Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov assumes control, even if temporarily, and starts making decisions.  When Stalin does die, chaos ensues.  Witnesses are shot, orders are countermanded and the committee members basically do what they can to undermine each other.

I think part of the problem for me is that I’m not that familiar with the characters, all of whom are real people.  They only two names I recognized were Nikita Khrushchev and Joseph Stalin.  I had to look up other people on Wikipedia.  (For those wondering, Vyacheslav Molotov is where the name for the Molotov cocktail comes from.)

I’m not really certain how much the audience was expected to know.  Judging by the audience’s reaction, I think any historical irony may have gone over our heads.  I’m not really certain who the target audience is.  I wouldn’t expect many Americans my age to view the movie any differently.

Much of it was overdone.  There are several scenes where a lot of people are shot.  Right after Stain dies, everyone in the building that witnessed anything was shot.  It’s a very bloody.  Do I think it was overdone?  Yes, I do.  Much of it was.  Whenever a character is informed of Stalin’s death, they cry profusely and loudly, just in case someone’s listening.

Another problem is that there’s no clear protagonist.  It doesn’t look like there’s a clear good guy.  I suppose there were no good guys to be had, but that still leaves us without someone to really root for.  It seemed like everyone was an antagonist.  About midway through the movie, I wondered exactly where the movie was even going.  How was it supposed to end?  Knowing more about history might have helped.

The movie comes across as some sort of in joke.  I may have gotten a few parts of it.  There were even a few scenes that seemed almost funny.  The problem is that death isn’t that funny.  The power struggle didn’t come off as that funny.  In the end, I just didn’t get it.

No comments :