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The Childhood Of A Leader

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
venice film festival movies, childhood of a leader

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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.

Dave Calhoun
Written by
Dave Calhoun

Release Details

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

Cast and crew

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