Here’s a Cool Shot | The Childhood of a Leader

Without having heard of it before, I randomly selected a film on Netflix, called The Childhood of a Leader. I wanted to watch a film with post-Twightlit Robert Pattinson in it since he’s actually a really good actor. While he doesn’t appear often in this film, he does play a pivotal role and even without his presence I was able to enjoy this wonderfully acted film. It’s a film about the fictional childhood of a soon to be a leader taking place in the early 20th century. The first thing I noticed while watching it was the phenomenal score and cinematography. Early on in the film, the main character’s being bathed by his mother, which you can see on my chosen shot.

The Childhood of a Leader image.jpg

This shot takes place right after he’s been caught throwing rocks at children who were practicing a play at night. He tried to run away, but fell and was brought home full of shame. In this shot, the shame’s portrayed by the boy’s posture, but also by the dark lighting and use of shadow. His head hangs low, which’s a visual queue of vulnerability and shamefulness. He’s sitting there, holding his knees as someone else washes him. The light’s coming from behind him and due to his low-hanging head, a shadow’s cast upon his face. This too symbolizes his shame. During the entire sequence, his face stays in the shadows, up until he finally prays to god to apologize for his actions. Only then is his face fully visible. Because of the meaning behind the lighting and the central composition, I really like this shot. It resembles a renaissance painting and it just looks gorgeous.

The Childhood of a Leader light


The action for which he’s ashamed is a small indication of what his future withholds. Him throwing with rocks indicates violent behavior, which will come into play later in the film. The story we’re told is an accumulation of youth stories of other well-known leaders and that makes the film feel even more authentic. As the story unfolds, you can see how he slowly starts to desire control over other people and manipulates them for his own good. Throughout the film, you’ll notice his lack of social skills and much like real life leaders, he’ll come across as a sociopath. The person who he becomes is influenced by his childhood, which involved shaming, being told he was wrong, being confused for a girl, and a quite rough education by his parents, that leads to him growing rebellious and eventually turning into an egotistical sociopath, that all really started with this image of a boy, sitting in a bath shameful, because his parents are mad and disappointed with him, but also for the fact that he got caught. Not just for the disappointment of his parents or the consequences that’ll follow, but because he’s failed. It’s a shot that tells a story and in this case, it’s the beginning of something big. It’s one of the more simpler shots in the film, but to me, it’s one of the more powerful ones, especially if you’ve seen the entirety of the film, which I really recommend you do. If not for the cinematography, then for Scott Walker’s score. The soundtrack is piercing and gives the film an eery and unsettling atmosphere. It’s a tense one and an underappreciated one as well. The film’s as a whole gorgeously shot, which is why I’ve compiled a hand full of other shots in this small montage.

The Childhood of a Leader collage

Thank you for the positive feedback on my previous article in this newly made series. I’ll keep on writing them as long as you enjoy them. Also, if you want to write an article for this series about a shot that you really like, feel free to contact me via email (

2 thoughts on “Here’s a Cool Shot | The Childhood of a Leader

    1. It’s a unique film; certainly not for everyone. Even if you don’t end up liking it, there’s still a lot to appreciate, like the cinematography, score, and acting.


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