Who Was Louis Wain?

It was the title that first grabbed me: The Elecrical Life of Louis Wain. I’d never heard of Louis Wain before. Supposedly he changed the way we look at cats. 

I also chose the film for Benedict Cumberbatch, a talented actor who tends to choose projects unlike the usual Hollywood drivel. What better time than on an airplane to watch his latest?

Louis Wain was a late 19th century illustrator, a person I must admit I had never heard of before. The idea of learning something new appealed to me. I did realize as the film rolled that I had seen some of Wain’s illustrations in the past.

Yet, even though I watched to the end, the story failed to grab me. Well written, well acted, well filmed, but I never found myself caring emotionally. Maybe I don’t care enough about cats. 

Thinking about my reaction I started to realize that I don’t think I have ever really been grabbed by a film I have seen starting Benedict Cumberbatch. Which has me wondering, why then do I think he is such a good actor? Have I been seduced by media hype?

I don’t think so. I can recognize talent even if I am not emotionally drawn into the performance. (Though looking at his pas roles, I must admit I did like Amazing Grace, but that was a long time ago. I don’t count The Hobbit – and as much as I loved the book, I found the movies visually stunning and ultimately somehow disappointing. 

Not just a biography, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tackles Victorian class prejudices. I was wondering, why bother? It isn’t as if there’s anything left of that era. Maybe that makes it an easy target.

Mental health issues are also at the forefront of the plot. When does eccentric cross over into crazy? What factors are involved? Who sets the norms? Do you have an opinion?

in the end I’m glad I watched this film. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and now, thanks to The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, I know a little more than I did before.


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