The Childhood Of A Leader
Tom Sweet, Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin, Liam Cunningham
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…this is an odd, slow moving and only partly successful film.
Based on a short story by Jean-Paul Sartre, this is an odd, slow moving and only partly successful film. The setting is France in the closing days of WW1, and later. The characters – including the titular leader – are fictitious, but there are constant references to real historical figures and major events. But, as the title suggests, most of what transpires here occurs on a relatively small and private “stage” – though even this is a kind of allegory of incipient proto-fascism.
To be specific, we spend most of the time watching the goings-on inside the palatial residence of an American diplomat, played by Liam Cunningham. While he and his colleagues debate the finer points of The Treaty Of Versailles, the focus is on his young son, Prescott (Tom Sweet). Prescott is an angelic-looking kid with pre-Raphaelite features and flowing hair – and he’s deeply disturbed and alienated. The chapters of his (early) life story are divided into “Tantrums”, as he progresses from throwing rocks at churchgoers to indulging in more subtly divisive and manipulative behaviour. We feel sorry for him, whilst simultaneously recoiling at the passive-aggressive antics that frustrate everyone from his parents to his French tutor.
The above might have made for a riveting drama, but it’s too oblique and low-key to be very effective. The soundtrack music, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. It’s an instrumental/orchestral score by the great Scott Walker, but a long way from his inspired best. And, for no apparent reason, it’s unbelievably loud and intrusive – almost deafeningly so at times.
The Childhood Of A Leader is highly reminiscent – in tone, theme, subject, and location – of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. But that was a knockout.