Welcome to our third review report from this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. Hope you enjoy the coverage!
The White King
This dystopian sci-fi drama is adapted from the best-selling novel by György Dragomán. Something of a half way house between The Hunger Games and Empire of the Sun (although nowhere near as good as either of those), it takes places in an alternate world where, for the last 30 years, the portrayed society has been living under a totalitarian government, shut off from the outside world, that preaches things like unity and duty.
We see this world of brutal and ultra-controlling dictatorship through the eyes of 12-year-old Djata (newcomer Lorenzo Allchurch) who seeks out desperate methods for himself and his mother (Agyness Deyn) when his father is held prisonor for being a traitor to the cause.
There are some very interesting ideas going on here, not least in how it takes a fresh allegorical look at Nazism and the corruption of power and warped societal beliefs. And there are some great performances, including Allchurch who impresses in his first feature role, Jonathan Pryce who is captivating as his ruthless Colonel grandfather and Deyn who has some very powerful scenes as Djata’s devoted mother.
However, it never truly convinces with the world that it’s trying to portray, only merely skimming the surface of those aforementioned ideas – it’s never really clear why this society has arisen or how it’s able to function without interaction with surrounding nations – and presenting certain unfolding events without any real logical reason. It’s certainly interesting and ambitious but ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying. 2.5/5
The Love Witch
One of the more unique films I’ve seen at the festival thus far could easily be mistaken for a film that came out 40 or 50 years ago, what with its faux visual aesthetic and internationally campy nature.
The plot follows a beautiful witch named Elaine (Samantha Robinson) who uses her looks, seductive charm and specially made love potions to lure various men to her and get them to fall in love with her. When she moves to a new small town to continue her work, it garners the suspicious attention of a determined local police officer.
Although I did find the overall idea started to wane in the second act, dragging its feet and getting rather repetitious because of its overlong two hour runtime, there’s a good amount of fun to be had in how it mixes together everything from campy and theatrical character interactions to a genuinely tragic undercurrent that comments on female sexuality and how society has (and continues to) treat the gender. 3/5
Part of the Focus on Finland strand of the fest, this political and business-themed drama explores a fictionalized version the ill-fated Finnish nickle-zinc-uranium mining company Talvivarra that caused some serious environmental damage.
We specifically follow Jussi (Joonas Saartamo), a young father and husband who takes on a job at the company that offers good money and a certain amount of prestige. However, he soon begins to have his suspicions about the ethical practices going on there, specifically his boss’ unwillingness to be clear about the very likely environmental impacts of the uranium on the surrounding lakes.
Visually slick though it may be, I have to say I found the narrative rather turgid and repetitive, bombarding the audience with tons of technical information that all merges into one another after a short while and, frankly, nothing you couldn’t have gotten from reading Wikipedia. The straining relationship between Jussi and his wife also feels surface-level and rather clichéd, while the overall message of “big companies are more interested in money than people and the environment” tells you absolutely nothing new. 2/5