Part German Expressionist throwback, part tripped-out midnight movie acid trip, “The Twentieth” Century is a visionary, and highly fictionalized, portrait of the rise to power of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The former Prime Minister is played by Dan Beirne in this feature-length directorial debut from experimental filmmaker Matthew Rankin. Watch the wild and psychedelic trailer below.
Rankin’s film has drawn comparisons to the work of fellow Canadian director Guy Maddin, as well as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and even John Waters in its grotesque look at Canadian politics and identity. “The Twentieth Century” unfolds in the style of 1940s melodramas, but blends that with tinges of wartime propaganda films, and plenty more insanity.
Here’s the official synopsis, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories:
Toronto, 1899. Aspiring young politician Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne) dreams of becoming the Prime Minister of Canada. But his romantic vacillation between a British soldier and a French nurse, exacerbated by a fetishistic obsession, may well bring about his downfall. In his quest for power, King must gratify the expectations of his imperious Mother, the hawkish fantasies of a war-mongering Governor-General, and the utopian idealism of a Québécois mystic before facing one, final test of leadership. Culminating in an epic battle between good and evil, King learns that disappointment may be the defining characteristic of the twentieth century!
Originally, “The Twentieth Century” premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival to raves. “The Twentieth Century” later went on to win the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival, and was up for eight Canadian Screen Awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. The film won prizes for Best Art Direction/Production Design, Costume Design, and Hair. At TIFF in 2019, “The Twentieth Century” nabbed the prize for Best Canadian First Feature Film, and has been adored throughout its year-plus-long festival run.
“Even without prior knowledge of our neighbor to the north, it can be enjoyed for its combination of supreme creativity, jaw-dropping audacity and amusing tongue-in-cheek dialogue,” wrote Variety.
“Take those Canadian history books, pile them up with maple-tree bark and set them ablaze,” wrote the Toronto Star.
Oscilloscope Laboratories releases “The Twentieth Century” in virtual cinemas on November 20.