The White King (2016)

  • Time: 88 min
  • Genre: Drama | Sci-Fi
  • Directors: Alex Helfrecht, Jörg Tittel
  • Cast: Lorenzo Allchurch, Agyness Deyn, Jonathan Pryce

Storyline:

Djata is a care-free 12-year-old growing up in a brutal dictatorship shut off from the outside world. When the government imprisons his father, Peter, and Djata and his mother Hannah are labeled traitors, the boy will not rest until he sees his father again.

2 reviews

  • As far as dystopian films featuring young protagonists go, The White King is refreshingly devoid of many of the usual elements that have defined the genre in recent years. Specifically, twelve-year-old Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch) is not heralded as the chosen one come to save society from authoritarian and/or totalitarian rule by overcoming a series of of increasingly dangerous obstacles with the help of plucky, likeminded rebels. Whilst this venture outside the norm is welcome, it doesn’t discount the fact that The White King is a film that very much strolls in place for most of its 89-minute running time.

    The opening idyll of Djata and his parents enjoying a day out by the river is soon shattered when his father Peter (Ross Partridge) is taken away by two men for speaking out against the Homeland, the fascist agrarian society in which they live. Though Peter has been sent to a prison camp, his mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) convinces young Djata that Peter has just gone away for a particularly lengthy work assignment.

    Tabling Djata’s inevitable realisation of his father’s true whereabouts, directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel focus on the Homeland, which is on the eve of celebrating its 30th year of independence. It appears to be a peaceful society in which all races and creeds seem to harmoniously live together in servitude of the state. Surveillance cameras abound, all the better to capture absences from public gatherings or possibly traitorous murmurings. Yet, for the most part, Djata and his classmates are unregulated, especially when they engage in a perilous war with a pair of teenage bullies (Jeffrey and Matthew Postlethwaite).

    Not much else happens. Djata and a pal venture inside the base of a large statue in search for the supposed treasure hidden within. A visit with his paternal grandparents (Jonathan Pryce and Fiona Shaw) results in Djata being goaded by his grandparent into firing a gun. A similarly dangerous encounter with General Meade (Greta Scacchi) features intrigue for Djata in the form of a chess-playing android and humiliation for Hannah, who is resolved to locate and liberate her husband.

    Performances are solid all around – Allchurch is especially compelling – but the Homeland itself is defined too diffusely. The striking animated opening sequence, replete with Constructivist images, hints at how the society may have been established but the ensuing film doesn’t carry through. As the narrative itself is not wholly engaging and the filmmakers offer scant information on the whys and wherefores of the story’s dystopia, one quickly loses any emotional investment in the tale though remarkable visuals and excellent production design do their best to maintain interest.

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  • “They all will have to lose something. If not you are a traitor.”

    “The White King” takes place in a future society. Has there been a worldwide, destructive war? A deadly epidemic? Or did a world state succeed in shutting down global communication, after which they could conquer all the on high-tech depending countries by using conventional warfare? And after this invasion, did they install a totalitarian regime? You won’t get any real answers to these questions. It looks like a hermetically sealed off camp with no luxury and limited basic needs. The regime can be called fascist. Even a sort of Hitler Youth is present. There’s militaristic tradition to honor “The Homeland”. The food supplies are managed according to strict rules. And apparently, each home is equipped with an intercom system where the daily production and practical information are announced. The Homeland is not a humanitarian society. It’s a society where coercion, control and punishment are key words. And this under the eye of strategically placed surveillance cameras.

    Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch) grows up in this commune. A continuing atmosphere of threat and oppression stands in the way of a carefree youthful life. Mischiefs are punished severely (with boxing irons). And when he tries to get a football back from some older bullies (probably sons of someone high in the military hierarchy), this turns into a violent fight rather than a kind of capture-the-flag game. In addition, his father is being arrested because of politically incorrect behavior. From then on, their live won’t be made easy. Their freedom is restricted and certain necessities are taken away from them.

    All this is taking place at the foot of an immense statue which can be compared (In terms of dimensions) with the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro. But in appearance, it looks like an illustration from old Russia when Marxism ruled. This image appears to be a portrait of the dictator who created this community. However, don’t expect further explanation about this. The symbolism used will obviously remind you of other past regimes. One regime stricter and more dictatorial than the other. Despite the attempts to create a teenage atmosphere with Djata searching for a treasure, him visiting his influential grandparents and a short-lived intermezzo in a futuristic-looking building outside the guarded area, the atmosphere in this movie remains gloomy and sinister. This is not a dystopian movie such as “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent” where a heroine overthrows the totalitarian regime. This is a rather cynical film about a not so unthinkable world in which human freedom is non-existent. To think that in our present world there are people who actually live in such humiliating circumstances.

    The only actors who looked familiar to me, were Ross Partridge and Jonathan Pryce as Djata’s father and grandfather respectively. However, their roles were rather limited (although of significance). It’s mainly Lorenzo Allchurch and Agyness Deyn who deliver a brilliant performance. Allchurch’s naive look at the society he’s living in, is gradually being replaced by a determined attitude. It’s not always high-quality, award-winning acting but admirable to play such an important role at such a young age. Deyn’s part wasn’t necessarily self-evident either. A caring mother who tries to protect her son and who would do everything to get her deported man back. The movie doesn’t contain any magical and fascinating images full of special effects. There aren’t any battle scenes with rebels trying to overthrow a regime either. The story is generally fairly superficial and vague. Certain scenes were quite unnecessary. Like the confrontation with General Meade. This was solely used to show that it all takes place in a distant future. The end is quite sudden and leaves you behind with tantalizing questions. In terms of mood the film is a success. A sober and compromising atmosphere that feels like a lifelike nightmare. A nightmare that nobody wants to experience in person.

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