A striking, impressionistically filmed final sequence set some time in the future doesn’t so much answer these questions as pose new ones. Here Walker’s full orchestral soundtrack rises to a deafening pitch, mixing brass punches and string-section yelps into its driving, jackboot march. In combination with British DoP Lol Crawley’s atmospheric 35mm photography and Corbet’s assured direction of an excellent cast, it makes for an edgy, poetic mix with the dramatic potency of a good nightmare.
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.
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.