20 August 2016 | dbdumonteil
This island earth
A work Robert Bresson (reputedly extremely demanding) admired.
"Les Iles" is not an easy movie to watch,let alone to review.The viewer tries to hang on to the narrative framework ,but it constantly eludes him ,as the director refuses any conventional story.As the movie progresses,the picture plays a prominent part - enhanced by a mysterious score- ,mesmerizing the viewer who gets completely lost.
Let's try and sum up the script ,in a succinct style:
1) Les Ardoines ,a Breton island : the wells run dry,the fog invades the land ,the population is about to leave for the mainland;Fabrice urges them to fight,they build a pump :irrigation is possible again.But they run into difficulties ,the island is in debt ,and whereas many opt for the mainland,some of them ,led by Fabrice leave for Doucemer (=Sweetsea).
2)In Doucemer,the inhabitants extract iodine ,a substance used for medicines ,from the seaweeds;the island thrives and soon becomes a tourist region .
3)Fabrice does not want to become a person of private means ;he buys a tiny island ,Medusa, -the name is revealing-in an auction sale ,spends a long time to draw its card which he sends to the "Institut Géographique National" .Winter comes and the whole island is covered with snow;Fabrice wants to leave but the island "does not want him to go"....
This precis is almost pointless;this is a mysterious story ,a man's search for the absolute ;the dialogue is almost unintelligible ,and Fabrice's motives remain obscure: the choice of an Austrian actor (Maximilian Schell,who speaks with a slight accent) in an all-French cast (Nathalie Nell,Marie Trintignant,...) adds something unusual in a bizarre atmosphere .The auction sale itself has something eerie: why give over so much time to the picture of the naked woman? why can't they find Medusa on the map? "It does not even exist" sneer the bidders ;it might be a pure creation of Fabrice's mind indeed: the strange metaphysical interlude about the Earth,grain of sand in the universe -which is not unlike that of Nicholas Ray's "rebel without a cause"- and the final scenes might suggest such an interpretation.Hadn't the director previously made a movie called "Utopia" (1978)?
Fabrice divests himself of all possessions :a previous brief sequence showed him swimming in the nude with a woman.On Medusa ,he's got nothing but his soul,against the raging elements.
The Iranian director ,Iradj Azimi,also made "Le Radeau De La Méduse" ,a much more accessible effort.