Friday, 1 September 2017

THE TESLA WORLD LIGHT (Tesla : lumière mondiale) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2017

"I've fallen in love with a pigeon... a beautiful bird."
- Nikola Tesla to John Pierpont Morgan Sr.

The Tesla World Light aka Tesla : lumière mondiale (2017)
Dir. Matthew Rankin
Starring: Robert Vilar

Review By Greg Klymkiw

O! A dream! A dream to unite the world across the Heavens, to transmit energy, to communicate across the vast Atlantic: absolved of cables, wires, mere radio technology, with the freedom of a bird in flight - THIS is a dream worth having. Alas, to be a visionary is to burn with the light of the world and to often have the dream fall on deaf ears, empty minds and souls bereft of the percipience only true genius can spawn. But, O! The vision! When it burns, it burns bright and in The Tesla World Light, a glorious new masterpiece from Winnipeg-born-and-raised Montreal filmmaker Matthew Rankin, vision burns brightly indeed!

And so it will be, and indeed so it is, that Rankin plunges us into the magnificent synaesthesia of Serbian-American engineer-inventor Nikola Tesla (Robert Vilar), his huge head, brimming with ideas, glowing with a magnificent oil-slicked straight edge razor double pompadour, two winged Matterhorns of pitch black hair, divided with a part that cuts deep into the scalp, into the very bone marrow housing the roiling cerebellum of the world's greatest pioneer of electricity. Rankin shares with us the Eureka of Tesla as he pens yet another entreaty to his erstwhile benefactor John Pierpont Morgan Sr. This will be his final appeal to the filthy-rich old man. It is 1905, in New York, in yet another squalid hotel room Tesla is forced, penniless, to reside in.

Tesla writes that his "pillow has been bathed in tears" for over a year with the sorrow and frustration he feels, that Morgan has not provided the funds he needs to finish "The World System" - his penultimate invention which, could advance world communication by a century. Webs of light explode around him as he lies on his bed, occasionally looking out the window to the sky, knowing that only filthy lucre is what keeps world unity at bay.

Then, it appears! Like an avian symbol of peace and flight!

The light of the world is the heart of the world.

"I've fallen in love with a pigeon... a beautiful bird," writes Tesla, enveloped in the fever of invention and receiving visits from the hand-animated, then stop-motion animated feathered creature. He details his dreams, they explode before us and for eight astounding minutes of dazzling cinematic brilliance we share Rankin's fantasia of the bushy-moustachioed Tesla.

A magical spiral coil spits out blasts of energy as Tesla's hand grips the switch, pulls it with purpose, the beauteous bird of hope perched upon his shoulder and then, the "infinite power for all nations" erupts from the engorged phallic joy that is Tesla's Wardenclyffe plant on Long Island, splattering upon the greedy faces of mankind.

O! This is cinema! In all its radiant poetic beauty, the true promise of the medium is borne upon our souls through our eyes. As he did with his previous film, Mynarski Death Plummet, Rankin's The Tesla World Light takes its rightful place alongside such classic Canadian short films as John Martins-Manteiga's The Mario Lanza Story, John Paizs's Springtime in Greenland, Guy Maddin's The Dead Father and The Heart of the World, Phillip Barker's Malody and Deco Dawson's Ne Crâne pas sois modeste / Keep a Modest Head. Rankin (son of the late, great Canadian writer/historian/curator Laird Rankin) unites the clocks, the toasters, the world and through his visionary imaginings of Nikola Tesla, he unites all of us in the dark room, lit only by the pieces of time we call cinema.

Curiously, the movie is about a great visionary needing a benefactor. Rankin himself is a visionary of the highest order. Happily, he did find a benefactor for his vision, the National Film Board of Canada. Oh Canada! We stand on guard for thee!!!


The Tesla World Light is a National Film Board of Canada production. After its triumphant World Premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, it enjoys a Canadian premiere at TIFF 2017.