SPLENDOR IN THE TREE
In «Leave No Trace» , Debra Granik’s exploration of pre-industrial America’s legacy leaves her with the crystalline metaphor of the independent filmmaker standing against the system.
Where had Debra Granik gone? Since the hit Winter’s Bone in 2010, Jennifer Lawrence has managed to star in three Hunger Games, three David O. Russell’s, in addition to a bunch of X-Men while also winning an Oscar. The director, however, seemed to have lost her way. But after some investigation, we learned that she was simply searching for a new part of America to explore. That’s the way Debra works: she identifies a forgotten land, settles in it, befriends the locals and eventually manages to blur the lines between fiction and documentary. Leave No Trace thus reveals her travelling the length and breadth of Portland’s thick forests, through the manifestly legendary story of a father (Ben Foster) and his teen (the yet unknown Thomasin Harcourt-McKenzie), a reduced family who decided to live in the woods, far away from modern civilisation. Admittedly, there is a hint of a Mosquito Coast- reminding tale in the father’s slow decline under the witnessing eyes of this daughter.
But here, it is treated in a soft, mezzo voce way. The horizon is dark, La Nuit du chasseur said gothic fairytale style is always near and yet the movie gives the spectator the impression to be walking bare feet on a ground of muss. Granik films the thousand nuances of the Pacific Northwest’s vegetation, the surrounding magnificence, and peeks at an alternative community of the Squaw Mountain haunted by the eternal folk myths and the specter of Thoreau. And all that without any theoretical Kelly Reichardt-like stiffness or ecological sermon. The film, then, works as the self-portrait of an incorruptible living right next to the Hollywood fortress and following her own rules. At the end the incredible Thomasin Harcourt Mackenzie can fly on her own, and, we hope, become the new J-Law, as to Granik, we hope she can go back to the woods and leave not trace or address.