William Lyon Mackenzie King’s journey to becoming Prime Minister of Canada is told in a surreal alternative history in The Twentieth Century. Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne) believes that it is his destiny to both become Prime Minister of Canada and marry Ruby Eliott (Catherine St-Laurent), as predicted by his mother (Louis Negin). However, Mackenzie finds himself in the middle growing civil unrest between Governor-General Lord Muto (Seán Cullen), who happens to by Ruby’s father, and Quebecois idealist J. Israel Tarte (Annie St-Pierre). Mackenzie has to decide where his allegiances lie if he truly is going to fulfil his destiny of becoming Prime Minister of Canada.
In his feature-film debut, writer/director Matthew Rankin takes obvious influence from fellow Winnipegger Guy Maddin in this alternative history biography of William Lyon Mackenzie King. Featuring a very unique visual style that appears to be a mix of live-action and animation, The Twentieth Century tells the epic of Mackenzie King in ten chapters. Along the way, Mackenzie ends up falling for her mother’s Quebecois Nurse Lapointe (Sarianne Cormier) and has multiple frightful encounters with sanitarium head Dr. Milton Walkfiend (Kee Chan).
Quite bluntly, I would say that The Twentieth Century can be described as the history of Canada, as told by someone high on LSD. If you are a fan of the films of Guy Maddin, you are sure to dig Mackenzie King’s surreal and darkly humorous journey. Personally, I found The Twentieth Century to not entirely be my cup of tea, though I do have to give the film props for its uniqueness and very interesting visual style.