September 5th, 2015 / 6 Comments

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Reviews from the ‘The Childhood Of A Leader’ screenings at Venice have begun to roll in. Below are excerpts & you can read the full review by clicking the links but be aware, there are some spoilers. We will keep on adding as the reviews come in.


Screen Daily:

Like nothing you’ve quite seen before, US actor-editor-scriptwriter Brady Corbet’s directorial debut is a historical psychodrama, or perhaps a drama of historical psychoanalysis, which draws a study of the rise of fascism out of a wilful young boy’s tantrums and power struggles. Set against the background of the 1919 Paris peace conference that led to the Treaty of Versailles, The Childhood Of A Leader is as relentlessly sombre and compelling as the film’s remarkable, full-volume orchestral soundtrack by musician’s musician Scott Walker.

The Film Stage:

The feature debut from young actor turned screenwriter-director Brady Corbet, The Childhood of a Leader is an ambitious choice for a first project — a period piece tying together the post-WWI political climate and the upbringing of a child in a chateau outside Paris. The film, premiering in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, is a huge psychological and tonal balancing act that could crumble at each turn, and yet never does.

…What could very easily be received as an irritating, pretentious feature debut is actually a display of controlled madness full of astute touches, like the use of Robert Pattinson’s persona in the few scenes he’s in. Let’s just hope the devoted fanbase he’s been leading into uncharted territory in the last few years will make it to the end of this one.


The Childhood of a Leader is a dark, enigmatic piece of work that hovers between visionary greatness and petty domestic triviality. Corbet’s inaugural stint behind the camera marks a stunning debut and the finest film at Venice thus far.

Eye for Film

It is true that the film is divisive, but only in a good way; anyone with a high tolerance for slow, impressionistic cinema will find plenty to get lost in. Though Corbet regularly cites eastern European cinema in his interests, his debut has much more of traditional European feel; indeed it may seem like unfeasibly high praise but there are echoes of the masters (Luchino Visconti, notably) in Lol Crawley’s superb 35mm cinematography.


THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER also includes a cameo by ROBERT PATTINSON, who only appears for little under fifteen minutes of the film overall, but does so with great credibility.

…It may seem strange to some that such a huge philosophical and political theme as the rise of fascist idealisms be narrowed down by something so simple and simultaneously shot so masterfully and shamelessly without restraint, a show of bravery that cinema more often than not disappoints with. But it is rather predictable that the film should be supported by confused thoughts by those who will snub it. As a whole, the vision is cohesive, the rhythm is consistent and hypnotic and the heavy handed post modernism equally passionate and exciting.

This was a most unusual and profoundly artistic film by Brady Corbet. It is a strong candidate for a top prize in the Orizzonti competition dedicated to films with the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema. This is such a film, clearly the best I have seen in Venice after six days of films.

…It is up to the imagination of the spectator to assemble the pieces of Corbet’s film, but they form an organic whole and there are no questions that remain. Brady Corbet has made a masterpiece


Brady Corbet has already forged a pretty good career as an actor, appearing in a range of commendable films from Melancholia to Martha Marcy May Marlene. In Venice he makes his directorial feature debut with The Childhood of a Leader, and what an explosive and thrilling debut it is.

….in a festival that has thus far served up fairly tame films, particularly in competition, an overly ambitious director is precisely what I wanted to see and I look forward to his next directorial venture.




The Hollywood Reporter:

Attempting to describe the rise of fascism in Europe between the two world wars as a parable about a wayward little boy, the dark and dreamy The Childhood of a Leader can only be called extraordinarily over-ambitious. This first feature by 27-year-old American director Brady Corbet combines a fine Euro cast, grandiose art direction and a thundering score by Scott Walker, but the result is an embarrassing hodgepodge that’s very hard to follow. One can only wonder what future awaits it after its bow in the Horizons sidebar in Venice, and a brief cameo by Robert Pattinson is unlikely to change its fortunes.


Distinguished by some virtuosic craft — including a cacophonous orchestral score by Scott Walker that will have certain viewers scrambling for the exit in the opening minutes — but significantly shakier on the writing and performance fronts, this “Leader” won’t find many followers in the distribution racket. Still, it’s an aggressive statement of intent from a filmmaker who, one senses, is just getting started.

…Corbet should leave this exhaustingly auspicious freshman effort with plenty of notes; one suspects, with some intrigue, that he’ll return with far more for us.

The Playlist:

Alternating immense bombast with long stretches of longueur in its psychologically questionable evocation of the formative years of a future despot, the film is formally confident, stylistically inventive and intensely irritating…it is far from the best film in Venice, but it is certainly the loudest.

…all we can be really sure of, is that “Childhood of a Leader” is not quite something good, but it is quite something

  • Maria
    Posted on September 05, 2015

    Wait a brief cameo? Really? I thought they were selling the film as Rob’s movie

  • Michelle
    Posted on September 05, 2015

    *nods* that surprised me too Maria. I did a double take.

  • Cindy
    Posted on September 05, 2015

    Nods with you ladies i thought his part was bigger too

  • Maria
    Posted on September 06, 2015

    Screen Daily says 4 brief appearances – no wonder we were all asked to take down that pic earlier this year – interesting very very interesting. Funny no one seemed to mention that early on

  • sue
    Posted on September 06, 2015

    TBH, I had read really early on that Rob’s role would be small, so this didn’t surprise me. Then again, I never really know what to believe until the movie actually appears on the screen. It sounds like a fascinating movie and I can’t wait to see it. The fact that Rob is in only 4 scenes? I’ll take it as a bonus!

  • Jules
    Posted on September 09, 2015

    So I think I must have read this somewhere previously or just lowered expectations in general? Because the news of his small role doesn’t surprise me at all *shrugs*

    Sounds bloody intriguing all told and I am desperately hoping we get the chance to see it sooner rather than later!! I’m loving all the positive reviews and *stops scrolling down when I get to the sour* LOL I think I definitely need a copy of the soundtrack too….

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