Christopher Willis on The Death of Stalin, the Soviet composers who inspired the film’s score, and more

christopher willis the death of stalin score mickey mouse veep armando ianucci interview Shostakovich Prokofiev Weinburg russia soviet composers composer

The starting point was thinking about Soviet music from the 1950s, of which there was a lot, you know, there was a whole stable of Soviet concert composers who also wrote for movies in that period. Shostakovich being the most famous, and also Prokofiev who was slightly complicated one, because he came and went, and Weinburg. In fact, there’s a large number of others who are not so famous.

And we were thinking for a long time about the tone of it. There needed to be something that would give you the nervousness of the film and genuine danger, but also not tap into a straightforward drama. And going forward, funnily enough, most period dramas are known to tend to limit the sound of the music on the set, so there was something very interesting in getting closer to that sound.

This was a great interview, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out – Christopher was great to talk to, and said some fascinating things about The Death of Stalin.

I’m particularly fond of this one, actually, just because of how nice a guy Christopher was. I’ve found – purely anecdotally – that composers tend to be the nicest of all the people I’ve interviewed. Not sure why; might just be that I’ve largely interviewed some terribly nice people who happen to be composers. But it just sort of sticks in my mind, I suppose.

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Comic Review | The Death of Stalin

the death of stalin comic graphic novel titan comics Fabien Nury Thierry Robin

I’ve always been interested in Russian history, particularly that of the twentieth century – but for some reason or another, I’ve never really looked into the specifics of Stalin’s death. It occurred to me this was a bit of a notable omission, so in a way this graphic novel proved a nice intersection of my interests, and what I wanted to know more about.

The Death of Stalin tells an engaging story – “the intense and underhanded struggle for control of a nation”, as the blurb proclaims. It’s an apt description; this graphic novel focuses heavily on the political machinations of powerful men in a country that’s been ruled by fear for a long time, and gets a lot of dramatic mileage from this premise. It’s consistently compelling – while it doesn’t linger particularly on any one character, there is a real attempt to develop this world and emphasise this struggle.

I recently read an advance copy of the English translation of this graphic novel, which is being adapted into a film by Armando Iannucci – here’s my review!

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