Armando Iannucci’s film ‘The Death of Stalin’ isn’t liked by everybody. And it’s a tough, fine line between laughing and crying when savagery and cruelty of such magnitude is lampooned – brilliantly, and uncomfortably.
Comedy usually does a better job of exposure than pious judgement, and this film bubbles with behavioural truths that feel horribly familiar…to our work lives today.
We use the terms ‘power struggle’ and ‘power vacuum’ about our workplaces quite naturally, and without alarm. A sort of tired familiarity. But something else is involved in power abuse that is worth a closer look: the creeping infantilism that invisibly and inevitably engulfs those who work for (is it ever ‘with’?) tyrannical, powerful bosses.
In the film we see the most powerful men in the land (vast power, vast land) reduced, as a group, to functional incapacity – even the wiliest of them – by the sudden absence of the feared authority figure who has defined and circumscribed every aspect of their existence. ‘With hilarious results’ as movie trailers like to say.
There is nothing hilarious about having become so used to acting on instruction, or acting to double guess the reactions of the issuer of those instructions, that nearly all personal agency has gone. Next time I work with a senior person who suggests that others ‘aren’t up to it’, I’ll wonder for a moment “Have you made them so?”.
From ‘The Death of Stalin’ Director: Armando Iannucci