The White King
Journey to a dystopian society in Alex Helfrecht and Jorg Tittel’s The White King. The world is explored through the eyes of a young boy who wonders what happened to his father when he is taken away during a family picnic.
The young boy is named Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch) and he initially seems to have a fairly happy life. He has a secure family unit with his father, Peter (Ross Partridge) and mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) showering him with affection and enjoying some family time with a picnic in an idyllic location. Things get darker when Peter is taken away for some unspecified reason and the audience has to look through the eyes of a young child to figure out how this world works.
This could have been a very good idea as it may have been a less contrived way of building a world that doesn’t require tons of exposition. Djata can ask all of the questions because he’s young and doesn’t understand things yet. Unfortunately the execution leaves a lot to be desired since the answers aren’t forthcoming and there’s precious little in the way of attempts to inform the audience in any other way.
Essentially this is a world where things happen “just because” and that notion wears thin very quickly. Throughout the film I was distracted by internal questions of how this world came to be and what makes the society tick. Answers are rarely forthcoming and when they are all that seems to happen is that more questions are invited.
Despite the underwhelming script, Lorenzo Allchurch is a very promising young talent who brings a level of innocence yet strength to Djata that comes across well and remains consistent throughout. Agyness Deyn is a great mother figure as she cares for him enough to try to protect him from the truth while struggling with the fact that she has essentially lost her husband.
Djata’s grandparents also play a significant role. They are played by Jonathan Pryce and Fiona Shaw who both do a good job but their role in this world isn’t all that well fleshed out either. Djata’s relationship with his grandfather is one of the more interesting elements at play here but it comes across as being fairly superficial as the time isn’t taken to properly develop it.
On a visual level the film is really impressive. Despite the lack of information on how the world works it does have a defined visual identity. The combination of 1950s clothing, advanced technology and modern style cars gives the whole thing a vaguely timeless quality as far as sci-fi goes. It’s a really well designed world that could have been an interesting sandbox to play in had more attention been given to developing it. There is also an impressive animation that opens the film but without any context to it the desired impact is all but lost.
There are signs of a good film in here somewhere but they never quite come to the surface due to an underwhelming script and a lack of world building to provide any context to what we’re seeing. The acting is impressive and adds depth to the thin characters but beyond that there isn’t really anything noteworthy going on here. There are so many dystopian stories out there and this one fails to stand out.