The Current War, a film about Thomas Edison


Robyn Sassen

A freelance arts writer since 1998, I fell in love with the theatre as a toddler, proved rubbish as a ballerina: my starring role was as Mrs Pussy in Noddy as a seven-year-old, and earned my stripes as an academic in Fine Arts and Art History, in subsequent years. I write for a range of online and print publications, including the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and and was formerly the arts editor of the SA Jewish Report, a weekly newspaper with which I was associated for 16 years.
Robyn Sassen


INVENTOR in a field of electrical possibility. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Thomas Edison in ‘The Current War’. Photograph courtesy

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PICTURE ALL THE ingredients for a fabulously good yarn: a great historical feud, complicated theories to explain, the sexy philosophical potency of the electric chair, complex social conditions and the unsophisticated medical savvy of the 19th century. There’s even a spot of Morse Code jokes in the mix, to say nothing of beautiful period costumes and buildings. The Current War, which aims to tell the story of the electricity race between American inventors George Westinghouse and Thomas Alva Edison, on paper, has everything, but on the silver screen it’s a rambling morass of snippets without context that lead you to follow so many red herrings that there’s little left for you to take home, by way of the enormity of the series of events.

Also, the work, along the lines of The Favourite – the recent Queen Anne biopic – contains is a…

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