The Childhood Of A Leader

Film, Drama
The Childhood Of A Leader

A creepy portrait of a fictional dictator as a child, which aims for Michael Haneke-levels of challenging drama

Actor-turned-director Brady Corbet wears a whole bunch of literary, historical and cinematic references on his sleeve with this shadowy psychodrama set in France in 1919. Wrapped in an intense and nerve-plucking score by Scott Walker that adds to a general sense of repression and foreboding, Corbet’s exquisitely shot and carefully designed story mostly takes place in the rural home of a stuffy American diplomat (Liam Cunningham). He’s taking part in the negotiations at Versailles that ended World War I, leaving his European wife (Bérénice Bejo) and the household staff to deal with his troubled son Prescott (Tom Sweet).

The boy’s unruly behaviour and the awkward, oppressive treatment he receives from his parents is clearly meant to mirror and comment on the political goings-on as peace terms are agreed with the defeated Germany. There are hints of Michael Haneke’s ‘The White Ribbon’ in the film’s mysterious suggestions about the childhood roots of later evil – suggestions that become explicit in the film’s delirious and bold final minutes. ‘Childhood’ is not always a subtle film, and some of the writing and acting feel like a bit of a slog. But its very spooky mood leaves a strong impression.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday August 19 2016
Duration: 116 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Brady Corbet
Screenwriter: Brady Corbet, Mona Fastvold
Cast: Robert Patterson
Liam Cunningham
Bérénice Bejo

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Anyone who hates "Art House" cinema should give this a wide birth.

It's overflowing with pretentious "Arty" references. It's slow, confusing, and gives you the opportunity of making of it what you will.

There are dialogues in different languages. Some scenes are in English which are quite difficult to follow due to the thunderous musical soundtrack.

There are a few scenes were the cameraman seems to have been drunk (i.e. camera being shaken ,and focusing on everything & nothing)

The film has chapters- the first is "Tantrum", I think the second was called "Tantrum 2" , then something like "More Tantrums". I don't remember reading any more.

Tom Sweet is very good as a very, very naughty boy (Yes you are right - one who has tantrums). I did start to wonder what ever would become of him, but I didn't really care much. I just think it might have all turned out better if they hadn't sacked the nanny. 

When I viewed the film (@ the Mayfair Curzon) I was a bit surprised to see the credits at the start of the film were overlapping - no big deal , I just wondered if this was a cock-up or just more "art".

A superb film full of beauty and elegance..We are held transfixed by not knowing how the little boy will react and respond in each scene..The Edwardian quiet of a rural French country house is evoked through creaking timber flooring,solitude and clocks ticking..The acting is quiet and powerful.Some people will not like the waywardness of the script and the occasional art house moments,but for me this is European cinema at it finest. 4 stars