The Childhood of a Leader

"Very Good"

The Childhood of a Leader Review


Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an authoritarian dictator. A blending of fact and fiction, this award-winning film has a remarkably visual sensibility thanks to actor-turned-director Brady Corbet and his intense cast. It's a bit relentless in its murky atmosphere, but there are flashes of genius all the way through.

The story opens in 1918 Paris, where an American diplomat (Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham) is knee-deep in negotiations that will lead to the Treaty of Versailles. His wife (The Artist's Berenice Bejo) and pre-teen son Prescott (Tom Sweet) are rattling around their country house waiting for him to come home, and there's also a loyal maid (Yolande Moreau) and an observant nanny (Stacy Martin). But Prescott is a handful, refusing to cut his hair and challenging everyone around him by throwing a series of epic tantrums. With his father busy with work, his mother is so lonely that she turns to family friend Charles (Robert Pattinson) for company. And it doesn't help that the maid indulges Prescott's every whim, leaving the nanny unable to control him.

Where all of this goes is elusive and complex, hinting at a variety of secret activities happening just out of reach. Since everything is depicted through Prescott's immature perspective, the film's plot feels suggestive and seemingly irrational, and yet there's a driving sense of logic to it as well. And by mixing in newsreel footage to root everything into this pivotal point of history, Corbet offers haunting echoes of the young lives of populist tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini (and maybe Donald Trump). All of this allows the cast to dig deeply into their roles, offering a glimpse beneath the surface at every step. At the centre, the remarkable young Sweet is fierce and also fragile, eerily likeable even as he behaves so monstrously. Meanwhile, Bejo's helpless sensitivity is cleverly contrasted with Cunningham's distance.

Corbet's direction is astonishing, capturing the characters' haunted eyes with minimal lighting. Shadows are so deep that the house's walls seem to be painted black, lit only by a few candles. Within this setting, Scott Walker's edgy score becomes almost a character of its own. So as the events swirl around, these vividly realistic people become part of an almost horrific, ominous series of events, both an unpicking of history and a parable of what is happening today. The final scenes are perplexing, but this bracingly important film can't help but leave the audience with plenty to chew on.

Rich Cline



The Childhood of a Leader

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd July 2016

Production compaines: Hepp Film, Bow and Arrow Entertainment, FilmTeam, Bron Capital Partners

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Chris Coen, Helena Danielsson, Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Istvan Major

Starring: as The Mother, as The Father, as Charles / The Leader, as The Teacher, as The Maid, as Laura, as Edith, Caroline Boulton as Mr. Advisors Secretary

Also starring: ,

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