Sydney Film Festival Review: A Modern Man (Denmark/Germany, 2017) leaves you asking, “Who is Charlie Siem?”

A Modern Man is a documentary about a handsome, contemporary classical violinist named Charlie Siem. But who is Messer Siem? Unfortunately that question is not really answered in this film because this British-Norwegian musician puts up a wall that is largely impenetrable.

This film is directed by Eva Mulvad (The Good Life). It begins with Siem, the son of a billionaire businessman going Porsche shopping. As you do. Siem ends up purchasing the “First orange car in Monaco” according to the car dealer and then Siem admits that he is colour blind. It is quite easy in these moments where he flaunts his obvious wealth and privilege to dislike the guy.

Charlie Siem stars here in the role of a charming man. He is interviewed and seems like a pleasant-enough individual but behind this façade you get the sense that he is quite self-centred, vapid and narcissistic. But is he just a product of contemporary life? In one scene he tells someone he has no friends because he has chosen ambition over being there for people. This is quite a sad indictment on a man who – from the outside at least – appears to have everything.

There is no denying that Siem is a talented musician and a perfectionist. He demands a lot out of himself and his playing- he takes a litany of vitamins to be at the top of his game and he practices complicated musical pieces to ensure that when game time rolls around his performance is near-perfect. He is also quite nice eye candy to watch and it’s easy to see why he was chosen to model for the likes of Hugo Boss and Armani. But this film leaves a bad taste in your mouth because there is no growth evident in Siem, all you see is him posing existential questions but he fails to change or see the errors of his ways.

A Modern Man is ultimately a modern story that shows how insatiable some people can be. It can be quite tedious viewing that feels like lots of style but no substance. For 84 minutes we witness a ruthless and clueless rich boy living a “dream” life but he fails to appreciate what it means to be human and to connect. So perhaps the next song Siem should learn to play is The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored” because it could be an apt anthem for him.


A Modern Man screens on the 11th and 18th of June at Sydney Film Festival. For tickets and more details head here HERE.


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