The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a biographical film about a British eccentric artist Louis Wayne directed by Will Sharp, who worked on the screenplay with Simon Stevenson. After its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, the film had a limited cinema screening in order to compete for the film awards, to arrive on the servers of the streaming service Amazon Prime on November 5.

Luis Vejn (Benedict Cumberbatch) started his career as an educated artist who earned money as an independent illustrator, and a change in his life occurs when he marries ten years older Emily (Kler Foj). That marriage adversely affected his aristocratic status, and additional problems arose because after the death of his father, he had to take care of his mother and five sisters. While his roses were not blooming financially, Emily helped him find inspiration in cats, the animals that defined his work by which he became popular.

The next thirty years of his career were very fruitful due to his obsession with cats and resulted in hundreds of published drawings a year. His drawings represented playful and later psychedelic images that helped change people’s perceptions of cats as pets forever. In addition to drawing, he spent his whole life trying to discover the “electric” mysteries of the world, and his health condition deteriorated irreversibly from year to year.

Louis Wayne considered himself an incomprehensible genius in every field he dealt with, and there were many of them. According to him, electricity is a mystical, supernatural force that can be manipulated for the purpose of time travel. Fortunately, instead of that theory, he devoted himself to drawing anthropomorphic cats, and those drawings initiated a cultural change in which those animals were no longer just a means of catching mice. However, as true as that fact may be, it cannot be said that it is important, and therefore worthy of a feature film.

That was the challenge for the screenwriters – to place the artist, his drawings, his career and personal problems in a story of real significance. Since he is an eccentric artist I recently heard about while reading about another eccentric artist Brian Charnley, I expected this film to be like that – innovative and different. It turns out that the form and goals of the biographical work do not have to be different because the topic or subject of the screenplay is unique.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is captured by a routine form and a typical narrative scheme of biographical work. We have a narrative Olivier Coleman which offers sarcasm in explaining our protagonist who, despite finding fame and instant success, becomes increasingly gloomy as time goes on. Failure after failure, tragedy, uncertainty, inability to generate a steady income from his art – the whole story seems like an accident after an accident, and Luis found salvation from sadness in drawing.

Luis’ character is framed as a tragic product of everything that happens to him, and it can be said that his narrative trajectory undoubtedly goes from bad to worse. As a result, the entire film becomes less a story about the man himself, and more about details from his life with an emphasis on financial and mental decline. Lewis is becoming more and more stuck in the world he imagines, and Cumberbatch interprets it with a characteristic, clumsy charm – my impression is that this is another biographical work in which the main actor makes the whole film better.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a likable biographical film that pays homage to its subject, but offers us nothing deeper than its eccentric nature and the tragic life circumstances in which the drawings of the cats that made it famous were created.

my final grade: 6/10

Source: The Filmske Recenzije by

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