As the saying goes, history is written by victors. Whilst this is definitely the case when it comes to conflict, conquest and war, it often also applies to other areas of life. This is the case with Niko Tesla. The Austrian émigré became famous in America as an inventor and pioneer during his lifetime but was soon forgotten. Whilst Thomas Edison remains a staple in history books. Over the last few decades his work is once again being lauded. Tesla tells his story.
In 1880s New York, Tesla (Ethan Hawke) works in the lab of Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan). The pair do not see eye-to-eye and the immigrant seeks funding elsewhere. George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan) buys a number of his patents and he ups sticks to Pittsburgh to continue his work. Whilst Edison favours direct current his competitor insists that alternating current is the future. His story is narrated by one-time lover, Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson).
Whilst this is not the first biopic to touch-on Tesla’s story (his dispute with Edison is most famously captured in The Current War), it is the biggest where he is the central character. However, director Michael Almereyda had no intention of simply making a straightforward drama. Employing a number of devices and ideas, some of which are more successful than others, Tesla’s story is brought to life. Using Anne as a storytelling gambit stops the tale getting bogged down in science and keep things ticking over nicely. Although not entirely successful, Tesla is still a fascinating historical film.
Tesla is released on Digital Download by Lionsgate UK on 21 September.