The Inventor: An Inquest of the Soul

Set during the 16th Century, The Inventor follows the iconic Leonardo Da Vinci (Stephen Fry) as he has come under pressure from Pope Leo X (Matt Berry) for his experiments. Stifled creatively in that environment, Da Vinci moves to France where the king gives him the freedom he craves. Suddenly, his passions are enflamed as he invents flying contraptions, war machines and studies cadavers to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Even so, his intellect is peaked when he is tasked to create the ‘ideal city’, giving him the opportunity to create something that can truly benefit the people… unless the king’s ego gets in the way.

Directed by Jim Capobianco and Pierre-Luc Granjon, The Inventor is a beautiful and entertaining look at Da Vinci’s life as he’s coming to the end of his career. Blending stunning stop-motion work with some beautifully crafted animation, Inventor feels almost timeless in its storytelling. Backed by a spirit of whimsy, Granion and Capobianco bring the legend to life with heart and humour. (In fact, it’s worth noting that Capobianco also wrote Pixar’s Ratatouille and uses that Pixar-style of storytelling to good use here.)

What’s more, Inventor boasts some truly surprising names in its cast, as names like Daisy Ridley and Marion Cotillard offer solid work. Nevertheless, it’s the ever-delightful Fry as Da Vinci that keeps the film bouncing along. As the aging architect, Fry delivers a performance that truly breathes life into the film. Here, Da Vinci is portrayed as a man whose zealousness for science energizes every aspect of his being. As such, Fry gives him a youthful vigor that is palpable.

Not only does this Da Vinci love to create. He takes joy in creation.

What makes The Inventor is unique in the way that it handles scientific inquiry. Fueled by his love of knowledge, this is portrait of a man who yearns to leave behind something of meaning for the next generation. As a result, with every mathematical equation and cut of the knife, Leonardo’s spirit comes alive. To discover truth is like air to his lungs. Every opportunity to problem-solve mean more to him than life itself. His dream is to help enlighten the world with new information about the human experience and seeks to find ways to improve the way that they co-exist with nature. 

But his passion for ‘the way things work’ drives him deeper than the metaphysical world. As Leonardo pokes and prods his way through the body, so too does he look for the soul. For Leonardo, the question of human autonomy is a riddle that’s worth solving. As a result, he is driven to pursue them with an analytical mind. He believes there’s something truly amazing about humanity and wants to discover its beauty. But he also carries himself with a spirit of wonder. Leonardo recognizes that there’s something special to mankind and that here must be something more to understanding it. In this way, there’s a deeply spiritual aspect to Leonardo’s Inquest. He understands that the secrets of the soul mean discovering humanity’s purpose.

But this also leads us the film’s true villain. Despite the fact that Leonardo faces various antagonists throughout his journey, his true nemesis seems to be fear. As he pushes forward with his love of knowledge, he constantly meets opposition from those who are afraid of his ideas. To the Pope, this love of science appears to threaten his beliefs. To Francis I, Leonardo’s interest in the ‘ideal city’ conflicts with his bravado. Each conflict that Leonardo faces seems to stem from the own anxiety of others as they face the inevitable change that might come with innovation.

Even so, with his eyes on the joy of discovery, Leonardo remains unphased. After all, to him, inventing is simply an offering from within his own soul.

The Inventor is available on VOD/Digital on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024.

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