Night­mare of la mère et la mer

SFX - - Reviews - Ian Berri­man

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.

Ex­tras None.

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.”

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