‘The Childhood of a Leader,’ 2015

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A Chilling Exploration of the Genesis of Tyranny


The Childhood of a Leader,” directed by Brady Corbet and released in 2015, is a psychological drama that delves into the formative years of a young boy who is destined to become a totalitarian leader. Set in the aftermath of World War I, the film serves as a cautionary tale, exploring how the seeds of tyranny can be sown in seemingly innocent settings.

Corbet’s Career and Positioning of the Film

Brady Corbet, primarily known as an actor, made his directorial debut with this film. “The Childhood of a Leader” is a bold first step, showcasing Corbet’s ability to handle complex themes and intricate storytelling. The film sets the tone for what could be expected from him as a director, marking him as a filmmaker willing to tackle uncomfortable and often disturbing subject matter.

Thematic Depth and Psychological Complexity

The film is divided into three sections, each labeled as a “tantrum,” which serve as pivotal moments in the life of the young protagonist, Prescott (played by Tom Sweet). These tantrums are not mere childish outbursts but are indicative of deeper psychological issues. The film explores themes of power, manipulation, and the inherent darkness that can reside in human nature. It raises questions about how much of evil is nurtured and how much is innate, making it a compelling watch.

Cinematic Choices

Corbet employs a variety of cinematic techniques to create an atmosphere of unease and impending doom. The film’s score, composed by Scott Walker, adds another layer of tension, making even the most mundane scenes feel ominous. The cinematography is equally evocative, with its use of dim lighting and stark contrasts serving to highlight the growing darkness within Prescott. The film’s pacing is deliberate, allowing the tension to build gradually, making the climax all the more impactful.

Reception and Legacy

“The Childhood of a Leader” received critical acclaim upon its release, particularly for its thematic depth and Corbet’s direction. However, it’s not a film for everyone, given its dark subject matter and psychological intensity. It has found a niche audience who appreciate its complexity and are willing to engage with its uncomfortable themes. The film has also garnered several awards, solidifying its position as a noteworthy entry in the realm of psychological dramas.

Concluding Remarks

“The Childhood of a Leader” is a haunting film that serves as a chilling reminder of the potential for evil that can exist in the most unassuming of circumstances. It marks a promising start to Brady Corbet’s directorial career, showcasing his ability to engage with complex themes and create a compelling narrative. While it may not be a film for the faint-hearted, it is undoubtedly a thought-provoking piece that leaves a lasting impression, urging the viewer to ponder the origins of tyranny and the complexities of human nature.