Review of the week
Film: The 9th Life of Louis Drax
Cast: Aiden Longworth, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul, Jamie Dornan
Director: Alexandre Aja
Classification: 13 LV
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
The mysteries of the mind are intelligently explored in this compelling drama adapted from Liz Jensen’s best-selling novel.
In her book, Jensen imagines two worlds: the world of the mind and the world of external events. It challenges the reader to reconcile the one with the other by throwing them into a mystery that is so cunningly conceived that it will evade the viewer until the very end.
Young Louis Drax (Adrian Longworth) has survived eight near-death accidents in his short life. On his ninth birthday, while on a picnic with his mother and father, he plunges off a steep cliff and ends up in a coma in hospital.
His violent father Peter (Aaron Paul) has disappeared and the police are looking for him.
Meanwhile, acclaimed neurologist Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) is called in to help. He is urged to employ unorthodox techniques to try to tap into the boy’s unconscious mind and reveal the truth about the events that led to his condition. He is a controversial specialist who deals with comas, particularly in deciphering what happens in that inner world of the coma victim. By studying the fabric of Louis’ life he may be in a better position to understand the boy’s state.
But as the story meticulously unfolds Pascal is drawn deeper into the mystery of Louis’ seeming ability to cheat death. A complication occurs when the handsome doctor begin to fall for the charms of Louis’ attractive mother, Natalie (Sarah Gadon) which obfuscates his investigation. Natalie is a mentally fragile woman with immense problems, but as new clues emerge in the case, a shocking revelation changes the fates of Louis Drax and everyone around him.
Louis is a precociously bright, insightful and puzzling boy who narrates his inner and outer lives in a lively flow of language. His parents are no longer together, their marriage is in serious trouble, but like many children, Louis believes he is the cause of their grief.
Director Alexandre Aja has brought Jensen’s novel vividly to life and in the process has elicited a commanding performance from the young Aiden Longworth, who plays the hapless Louis. His role is pivotal to the story as we wrestle with fantasy and reality.
The film’s central mystery concerns Louis and his father who both tumbled over the edge of the cliff on that fateful day. The father disappears in the river below, while Louis survives but lapses into a coma. The questions is: What really happened?
Jamie Dornan, who made a bigger name for himself as the key character in the spicy and controversial ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, again plays a seductive individual with personal problems.
The production also explores the problems of perception: of the ways in which children perceive the adult world around them and of the ways in which adults perceive the workings of the youthful mind.
‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ is a well crafted production that slowly builds tension and craftily maintains it until the shocking denouement.
Other releases (synopsis)
FILM: WAR DOGS
CAST: JONAH HIL, MILES TELLER, ANA DE ARMAS, KEVIN POLLAK
DIRECTOR: TODD PHILLIPS
From director Todd Phillips (‘The Hangover’ trilogy) comes ‘War Dogs’, a comedic drama based on true events, starring Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, ‘Moneyball’) and Miles Teller (‘Whiplash’, the ‘Divergent’ trilogy).
The film follows two friends in their early 20s (Hill and Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan military – a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.
CAST: Anuk Steffen, Bruno Ganz, Isabelle Ottmann, Quirin Agrippi, Katharina Schuttler, Hannelore Hoger, Maxim Mehmet, Peter Lohmeyer, Jella Haase
DIRECTOR: Alain Gsponer
Orphan girl Heidi spends the happiest days of her childhood together with her eccentric grandfather, Almöhi, cut off from the outside world in a simple cabin in the Swiss mountains.
Together with her friend Peter, she tends to Almöhi’s goats and enjoys freedom in the mountains to the fullest. But these carefree times come to an abrupt end when Heidi is taken to Frankfurt by her aunt Dete.
The idea is for her to stay with the family of the wealthy Mr. Sesemann and be a playmate for his wheelchair-bound daughter Klara, while also learning to read and write under the supervision of the strict nanny, Fräulein Rottenmeier. Although the two girls soon become friends and Klara’s grandmother awakes a passion for books in Heidi, her longing for her beloved mountains and Almöhi grows ever stronger.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not have special associations and memories connected to ‘Heidi’. Some will be immediately reminded of the song by Gitti and Erika, who accompanied the broadcast of the Japanese series from animation giant Hayao Miyazaki in the seventies: ‘Deine Welt sind die Berge!’.
Some will think of Shirley Temple, others of the Swiss adaptation from the fifties, which is seen as one of the classics of post-war German cinema. Some will have immediate associations with an untouched mountain idyll.
This multitude of different ideas is, of course, a curse in a way: everyone has their own opinion of Heidi.
On the other hand, the high recognition factor is a blessing: you do not have to explain to anyone who or what “Heidi” is; the story is timeless and the themes have lost none of their topicality.
Which is also the main reason why the adventures of the Swiss orphan girl, who is torn away from the mountains of Grisons and sent to a bourgeois household in Frankfurt, can be retold again and again. Reto Schaerli and Lukas Hobi of the Zurich production company Zodiac Pictures started occupying themselves with the legendary story seven years ago.
“Like many Swiss people, I know the story of ‘Heidi’ very well, but I had never read the books before,” admits Hobi. “Our generation is more familiar with the story from the animes and the films. After I read the novels, I completely fell in love with them. I had the impression that I had not seen what I had just been reading in the films at all. This discovery was the moment the project was born.”
And Reto Schaerli adds: “The last classic Swiss adaptation was made a long time ago. It was created at the beginning of the fifties and was filmed in black and white. So we did not have the feeling that there had already been several adaptations.”