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The directorial feature debut by American writer/actor Brady Corbet offers an arcane psychological portrait of a little boy who grows up to become a fascist leader. The storytelling of The Childhood of a Leader is spare and counts on the empathy and patience of the viewer, as Corbet keeps the inner world of this child obscured behind a physical performance by newcomer and British child actor Tom Sweet. The film focuses on behavior, especially punishment and a clear lack of love surrounding the boy, which is accentuated beyond words and exposition by an oppressive atmosphere of darkened interiors and a grim orchestral, sometimes cacophonous, score by English musician Scott Walker.

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