The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica
The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica tells the story of Alfred Rott (Timothy Spall), an architect who is commissioned by an eccentric billionaire calling himself the Grand Duke of Corsica (Peter Stormare) to design his own mausoleum. Fascinated by the job and the duke, Rott becomes increasingly entwined with the billionaire’s life – and, indeed, his death.
In many ways, The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica is a difficult film to get on with. The pacing is odd and inconsistent in many places. For instance, the movie very much drags its feet in the process of getting to the main story, but also breezes through essential character interactions once the plot begins, not allowing the character dynamics at the heart of the story to really flourish. The writing is also inconsistent, with much of the dialogue vacillating between too flowery and poetic to feel natural, and crude in a way that also feels disjointed and unnatural.
However, despite these flaws, the production manages to come together in an interesting and engaging way, very much more than the sum of its parts. While the narrative can at times feel like it’s trying too hard to do too much, with many plot points and character arcs feeling half-baked as a result, the overall story is coherent enough through the consistent unifying themes of life, death and legacy. In particular, an oddly prescient exploration of diseases and pandemics (malaria in this case) hits differently in a world still affected by Covid-19.
The story is also saved by the strong performances from its ensemble cast, the actors working hard to hold the piece together and compensate for its faults. In particular, Spall and Stormare have an excellent dynamic as the no-nonsense Rott and the eccentric grand duke. Though more could have been done to really make the most of the chemistry between the two actors, what is on screen is enough to help the film get by.
The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica is an endearingly offbeat flick, telling its story in an unconventional – and often frustrating – but ultimately charming way. While it’s certainly an acquired taste, it compensates for its structural flaws and writing issues with a strong narrative core, a talented cast and a clear thematic vision.
The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica is released nationwide on 17th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica here: