I’d never have guessed ‘Testament of Youth’ is the first feature film from British director, James Kent.
Kent is best known for television series like ‘Inside Men’ and documentaries such as ‘9/11 Phonecalls from the Towers’ but after watching ‘Testament of Youth’ I would have sworn he has been making feature films for years.
The organisers of the Foyle Film Festival opted to open this year’s festival with Kent’s film and what a superb decision it turned out to be.
This film is so rich in beauty, integrity and it has just the right amount of sentiment.
‘Testament of Youth’ is essentially the film adaptation Vera Brittain’s memoirs.
Brittain is played exquisitely well by Swedish actress, Alicia Vikander.
Vikander gives a tremendous performance and succeeds in portraying Brittain as a woman years ahead of her time.
The way in which the ‘Testament of Youth’ is filmed is strikingly brilliant.
Northern England’s wild countryside and weather beaten landscapes come to life on the big screen but what is brilliant about the cinematography is the way Kent presents Vera’s memories.
They are done so almost like a stream of consciousness. As Vera visualises the touch of her lover or her brother’s smile, the audience experience it with her.
Kent doesn’t linger with these memories because they flash on the big screen for a second or two and are gone again.
Vera Brittain’s memoirs are truly gripping to say the least but if you thought that it impossible to make them more palatable and even more dramatic then you’d be wrong.
Brilliant German modern German composer, Max Richter, provides an utterly soulful original score which fits like a glove when paired with Kent’s direction.
If I was to have one gripe, I would have to argue the film felt somewhat long. A few false endings come and go but all is forgiven when Vera delivers a remarkable and thought provoking address at the end of the film.
Not once does Kent’s film feel jingoistic and despite the fact Vera says she will never forget those who have fallen I got the feeling it was a message to all who died during the Great War.
A remarkable anti-war film beautifully made.
VERDICT: 4/5 - Alicia Vikander is outstanding as Vera Brittain. The Swedish actress gives perhaps the performance of her career so far and is utterly memorable for all of the right reasons. The way Kent works the camera in ‘Testament of Youth’ is also truly remarkable and Max Richter’s original scores is outstanding. The film resists the temptation to become something jingoistic but instead makes a universal statement opposing the actions of man during war.