October 1, 2019

VIFF 2019 | 'The Twentieth Century' Lionizes Mackenzie King

"You shall govern this dominion!"
VIFF 2019—Winnipeg filmmaker Matthew Rankin takes Canadian history, specifically the rise to power and early life of tenth Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, to tell a surreally-realized, expressionistic tale of our country's national identity. The Twentieth Century artfully remixes King into a flawed yet legendary comical figure by creatively lionizing him as a myth of silly nationalistic lore.

Actor Dan Beirne stars as King in the unconventionally twisted take on the "important man" biopic formula set mostly in 1899 Toronto and realized mostly through boxy, public television program style sets. It's a dynamic, captivating performance that complements the surreal cinematic form seamlessly.

Using fascist propaganda inspired imagery and literalizing actual "pissing contests" in place of the usual political theatrics, the film is so detailed in its dissection and skewering of Canadian historical perceptions. Never mind the seal clubbing or outdated monarchal addresses, it shines a playful light on forgotten "Canadian manhood".

Full of visual hyper-stylistic myth-making, The Twentieth Century suggests a twisted sort of feature-length contemporary arthouse version of the iconic Heritage Minutes commercials. Rankin's dreamlike film is an interesting vision of an impressionistic Canada mirroring back a heightened version of how Canadians see ourselves through our history. It's easily one of the more memorable and original works of Canadian historical fiction.

The Twentieth Century screened at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the True North and Future//Present streams at the Rio Theatre.

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