The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Distributed by: Netflix

Written by Alexander Reams


Many have attempted adaptations of Roald Dahl’s works in the past, most notably the iterations of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” however there has been one definitive adaptation of one of Dahl’s works that is undeniably Dahl, Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Anderson understood the text and intention of Dahl unlike any filmmaker before, so when Netflix acquired the film rights to all of Dahl’s library the logical next move was to hire Anderson to bring them to life. After production of “Asteroid City” was completed the adaptation of four of Dahl’s short stories began and what was delivered is nothing short of euphoric. 

The text that Dahl crafted is treated as scripture by Anderson and his performers, with Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Dahl providing most of the narration and dialogue from the book, performed directly into the camera. The story that Dahl tells us is about Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), a trust fund baby who finds a book about how to master the ability to read minds. In this book, Dr. Chatterjee (Dev Patel) and Dr. Marshall meet a man named Imdad Khan (Sir Ben Kingsley) who claims to see without his eyes, and after many tests prove this theory, the way to master it is recorded and Sugar sees this a “get rich quick” opportunity. However he soon becomes obsessed with mastering it and closes himself off from the world until he does so, but this also changes his mind. He loses the thrill of winning because he knew it would happen.

This is all told through each performer interacting with both other performers and the camera. Oftentimes breaking the fourth wall then returning to the scene. It’s never jarring or takes the viewer out of the film as this has been established when Dahl welcomes the viewer to the film. The film itself is shot on sound stages and has a theater-esque mechanical sense to it. Houses and sets will move in and out on a whim as the environment demands it. Anderson’s regular cinematographer Robert Yeoman shot the short on 16mm film for the vintage interpretation of Dahl’s writing. “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is one of Anderson’s finest works and only supports the argument that he should continue to make Dahl adaptations for his entire career.

“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” Trailer

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: InstagramLetterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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