The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
It is still a Thursday but a plethora of new releases awaits me! The stretch is on and I am loving the flex after my illness. With that, I finished watching the new English short film The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar which is now streaming on Netflix. It was only until a day prior to the release of the film that I was scrolling through the new releases of Netflix, only to stumble upon the scheduled release of the film. On probing further, I got to know that the film is directed by Wes Anderson who, according to me, has the most unique and aesthetic style of narrating a story. The bright burst of colours of the set is often colour coordinated with the clothes of characters while presenting a unique world in the filmography of Wes Anderson. I was extremely curious about the film and I decided to probe further, only to realise that the film was an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s short story by the same name. My excitement levels were at an all time peak while venturing into The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar, does it manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
An official adaptation of a short story of the same name by Roald Dahl, The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar follows the story of a rich man who learns about a guru who can see without his eyes, only to set off to learn the skills in order to cheat in gambling. The story here is refreshingly different and perfectly symbolises A Wes Anderson world wherein he could run riot. But what really stood out for me in its entire duration of 42 minutes was the unique presentation of the makers to transform this adaptation into an audio-visual book of sorts. If you are privy to audio books then you would know exactly what I am referring to. And quite honestly, I haven’t watched a film presentation as unique as this.
The drama opens with the introduction of the author Roald Dahl himself who doubles up as a narrator. This very start is symbolic of how true the film adaptation is to the written source material. Along the way, you have the typical stage setup which is aesthetically beautiful and very Wes Anderson-like. The only thing you need to make a note of is the quick dialogue delivery which is almost like an audio book unfolding at 2x speed. This is where the subtitles came to my rescue and I found myself enjoying the drama while slowing getting sucked into its world.
The proceedings are fast-paced and make for a quirky watch in many ways. If the characters are doubling up as themselves, while also mouthing lines of the subtext, as seen in a book, then the makers have successfully unlocked a whole new cinematic genre in itself. The humour is on point but there are also layers of faith which acts as a meditative aspect of the film that presents its virtue of patience beautifully. The segment involving a book within a book tale was impressively executed in what was an engrossing drama in many ways.
The fun begins when the protagonist begins to imbibe the skills of the guru only to use it for gambling. At this point, I did feel that the messaging of the film might be skewed(I hadn’t read the short story previously) but the clever turn of events does put the film back on track with respect to the message that it wishes to convey. Overall, the screenplay here is a unique cinematic experience, perhaps the most unique that I have experienced all year!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are given a whole new meaning here. The lines are conversational, meditative but told through the lens of an audio-video book that adds to the quirky humour of the film. The music and the BGM enhance the drama at various junctures in the screenplay. The cinematography is delightful with the bold set of colours which are reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s previous work Asteroid City. The aesthetics in this short film are wonderfully colour coordinated as well. The editing is extremely crisp and it doesn’t drop a single second in the narrative. Director Wes Anderson is a unique filmmaker of our times and over the years, he has carved a niche and a narrative style for himself. You may call him a genre filmmaker as well, and here too, his skills are on full display. The experimentation with the narrative style may not always be fruitful but when it lands, something magical is created. And that is the case here. The direction is innovative and absolutely top notch with its style, substance and aesthetics!
The performances are incredibly good here. Each character takes up dual responsibility here and that adds to the subtle humour of the drama. Richard Ayoade as Dr. Marshall and The Yogi scores heavily with his poker faced act. Ralph Fiennes as The Policeman and Roald Dahl is fabulous to watch. Dev Patel as Dr. Chatterjee and John Winston is a treat to watch, particularly with his measured antics. Ben Kingsley as Imdad Khan and Crouper is brilliant in every sense of the word in a very unique act. Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar and Max Engelman is extremely well measured and contributes to the subtle humour in his part through his body language and mannerisms.
The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar is the most faithful and unique adaptation of a short story presented in the form of an audio-visual book that is truly wonderful to watch! Available on Netflix and Highly Recommended!