Nightmare of la mère et la mer
released OUT NOW! 2016 | 15 | dvd Director lucile Hadžihalilovic Cast Max Brebant, roxane duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Nissim renard
Occasionally a film comes along which seems less suited to cinemas and more to being projected on a wall in an art gallery. French director Lucile Hadžihalilovic’s latest is just such a film: crying out to be appraised in reverent silence while stroking your chin in contemplation.
On an island somewhere, sometime, young Nicholas sees the dead body of another boy while swimming in the ocean – but his mother is dismissive. Soon he and other boys are being taken to a gloomy hospital for injections, followed by mysterious operations. Mysteries abound: why are there no adult men to be seen? And what, exactly, is it that the women do at night when they head off to the coastline?
It’s an enigmatic, oneiric film which seems pregnant with significance but never actually gives birth to it. Instead, there’s just a general sense that Hadžihalilovic is picking at the scabs of taboos concerning reproduction, child sexuality and the boundaries between species. Hadžihalilovic has explained that, “Sometimes when you dream, the images are neutral, but they have a real emotional charge that doesn’t seem to fit. That’s what I’m trying to capture.” She’s also spoken of never really knowing what one of her films is about when she commences making it. It seems we are watching the results of her exploration without a map.
Those results are certainly strikingly eerie. Hadžihalilovic makes good use of the stunning Lanzarote locations for shots of waves pounding against the rocks and underwater photography of swimming figures and sinisterly swaying fronds, while her blank-faced nurses are quietly creepy. The frustration is that there are other directors – David Cronenberg, for example, or Jonathan Glazer (whose Under The Skin feels positively chatty in comparison, but which has a similarly unnerving tone) – capable of providing just such visual poetry while delivering a satisfying story at the same time.
Hadžihalilovic is married to director Gaspar Noé. She edited Seul Contre Tous, and helped write Enter The Void.
“Yes, I can confirm that this is your hand.”