The Swan Review: Wes Anderson’s Short – A Compact Gem of Cinematic Perfection

Review of The Swan: This Roald Dahl short story about brutality and the loss of innocence is sensitively adapted by Wes Anderson.

Wes Anderson’s second Roald Dahl adaption for Netflix, The Swan, takes a different thematic path after The Wonderful Life of Henry Sugar. Here, previous traumas continue to haunt the present in a dark world of bullying and horrifying cruelty, concealed somewhere beneath the director’s purposeful stylistic embellishments.

The Swan paints a sobering and tenacious picture of the circle of suffering and the unavoidable loss of innocence.

The premise

In the film The Swan, Rupert Friend plays Peter Watson, a boyhood victim of bullying from two older lads. Word for word, he relates this tale in the present as his former self, a little child experiencing the beginning of bullying, is standing next to him. He is forced to lie down on railroad tracks with his hands bound. Later on, in spite of his fierce objections, he too sees a tragedy involving a stunning swan. The situation just worsens.

Wes Anderson never misses

Stories from Wes Anderson are distinctive. The painful truths that nonetheless permeate the wide brushstrokes of symmetry and absurdist humor are never undermined by his remarkable visual approach.

The Swan’s subject matter is dark and cruel, yet the filmmaker lets his artistic decisions speak for itself without providing even the slightest hint of spoilery. It works incredibly well how faithfully he pays homage to the rollercoaster trip that is so unique to the Roald Dahl novels. The energy doesn’t waver and is still symbolic.

The fact that an adult Peter is revisiting his past adds an extra degree of weight to this situation. Even when he describes the difficult circumstances he had to endure as a child, Peter presents the facts in an evasive manner. He doesn’t display any emotion; instead, he places more focus on what happened than why.

Final thoughts

Roman Coppola skillfully directs The Swan, with Adam Stockhausen’s outstanding production design providing support.

Take note of how it crafts a little book with pastel embellishments, where characters are confronted with painful realities with an intense sense of heartbreak.

The network of artifice that serves as a stand-in for background information effectively conveys the idea of a world that is caught in a parallel flow of memories. With tact and consideration, the subtext of sadness that permeates the story and culminates in that climactic event is addressed.

Bullying causes cycles of loss and sorrow. Even after all these years, those memories, concerns, and fears remain latent, deftly leaving their mark on subsequent generations.

The Swan is never seen up close because its purity and beauty are too valuable in this terrible, cruel world. In a way, we are all complicit in that act of violence.

Anderson has made a tiny masterpiece of a movie that is a brilliant illustration of the value of the short form.

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