In case the trailer didn’t already give it away, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a comedy. Its dialogue bristle with sharp, satirical thorns. It is at turns witty, goofy, absurdist and madcap. It is also like one of those works of art that, when you first look at them, seem to depict a rabbit or a beautiful young woman – but then you realise that you’re actually looking at a duck or an old crone, and once that realisation has set in, it’s difficult if not impossible to again see what you thought you saw at first. Once that moment has set in, The Death of Stalin becomes something much darker. The verbal humour remains, but it is revealed to be the poisonous icing on a meal that tastes of ashes and death.
I used to like a good, dark, depressing ending. I used to watch Seven as a feelgood movie. I used to think that Brazil‘s ending was actually as close as possible to a happy ending, given the situation Sam Lowry’s in. (I still think that.)
I don’t know what exactly has changed, but this seems to be an older, gentler me… who actually likes films not to end on a note of utter despair. They can still be pretty dark – but please, please, please, don’t think you need to bring about the complete and utter destruction of mankind, at least in Europe, Africa and Asia to make me enjoy a film. Killing most of the population of Britain’s horrible enough; you don’t actually need to top that one. It’s overkill. Haha. Erm.
Yes, we watched 28 Weeks Later, thanks to the kind programming people at Film4. The film’s actually surprisingly good, well filmed and cast, taking the premise and ending of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later further in intelligent ways. It isn’t a necessary, as far as sequels are concerned, nor does it manage to be as disconcertingly lyrical and moving as the first film is at its best, but it’s a smart, scary, effective horror film.
But it doesn’t half heap up the dreariness at the end. It’s not enough that kiddo is infected. It’s not enough that all the good guys die in various horrible ways: clubbed to death by Robert Carlyle, burnt alive by US soldiers (hey, at least Jeremy Renner got to come back and defuse bombs in Iraq, which has got to beat being fried by your own guys in the process of a zombie apocalypse), having your eyes squeezed into your skull by the hubbie who left you to be eaten by the Infected. Life in post-apocalyptic Britain isn’t pleasant to begin with… so do we really need to end on dozens of Rage-infected Frenchmen running towards the Eiffel Tower, most likely after having had a good nosh on us?
It’s totally silly, I know – but I appreciated that there was a note of hope at the end of 28 Days Later. It wasn’t a happy ending by any means, what with most of England dead and gnawed on, but at least it could get better. Ending on “You thought there was hope? Nope, unless hope in your books means, ‘Well, the Frenchies get killed too! Haha!'”? Now that’s just plain mean.