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  • riid11 September 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

    Written and directed by Jean Paul Civeyrac, A travers la foret is a story about Armelle (Camille Berthomier), a young woman coping with the death of her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident. Armelle has waking dreams where she sees her lost lover still in her life. One of her two sisters convinces her to see a medium, where she runs into a man that looks eerily like her lost boyfriend.

    The film is quite quiet and very visual, and is divided into separate scenes, each shot in one continuous take with a single camera. I wouldn't say this film was quite to my taste, but visually, the film is very interesting, and I could appreciate the director's artistry. Berthomier gave a good and very natural performance, especially considering this was her first film.

    Notes from the Q&A; apologies for any mis-translation, as an interpreter wasn't available for the first part of the session: - The film has just been added to the New York Film Festival.

    • Civeyrac was originally working on another film, but ran out of money. He met Camille Berthomier and very quickly came up with the script for this film, especially as he had been carrying the story inside him for a long time. Meeting Berthomier made it easy to write.

    • Civeyrac wanted to film Berthomier, showing her singing and dancing; she wasn't an actress at the time they met, but he found it a good experience to work with someone fresh and graceful.

    • I asked why he decided to shoot each scene in one take with a single camera; Civeyrac said that this fit the reality and mental state of the story, and that the single take creates a tranquil tone. The movie is also about her past existing in the present, and this style helps to mix the two in her reality.

    • Someone asked about whether the film intentionally seemed to allude to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Civeyrac said that it wasn't intentional, especially since he more directly addressed it in his last film, Tristesse beau visage, but that film did continue to inform his thinking. In fact, another story from the 16th century gave him more ideas for this film.

    • The songs sung by Armelle were written by Berthomier herself.

    • Picking the music for the film was a long process; he loaded a lot of music on his computer and played around with what worked and what didn't. The editing process took 6 weeks, which is long considering there are really only 10 shots, all of which are continuous.

    • Civeyrac was happiest about the last piece of music in the film, The Unanswered Question, by Charles Ives. It sounds quite modern, but was in fact written in 1906.

    • The film was shot on high-definition video and optically transferred to 35mm film.

    • Civeyrac had very little money to shoot the film, so he used whatever (free) locations he could find. Those locations dictated the blocking for the shots. Detailerehearsalsls were done off-site, and then they went on-location to shoot, with a 15:1 take ratio, about a day per section of the film.

    • The choice of the continuous shots was made to find a fluidity in movement, like a spiral, which ultimately goes to the forest at the end of the movie.

    • Civeyrac didn't want it to be obvious that each scene is a continuous shot, as he didn't want it to be seen as a performance or contrived, but rather more simple and alive. The shots were planned out in advance, with lots of marks on the ground; there was no improvisation despite the actors looking so loose and comfortable. This is Civeyrac's normal style.

    • His shots are not preconceived during the writing process; rather, he waits until he has his locations and actors.
  • Chris Knipp17 November 2005
    Jean-Paul Civeyrac: Through the Forest/À travers la forêt (France 2005) 65 minutes. No US distributor. Shown at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, October 2 2005.

    Shot in wide aspect ratio with pale amber filters, Civeyrac's new film is a myth or elegant fable whose subjects are three pretty girls and a pretty boy. The main character is Armelle (Camille Berthomier), chattering naked on a bed in the first image of the film (in which there are just ten shots, set off by chapter headings), where we glimpse only the well-formed naked butt of her lover Reynaud (Aurélien Wiik). Suddenly the room darkens, a storm rumbles, and Armelle can't understand why. In the next shot Reynaud has died in an accident and Armelle's two other dark-haired sisters, Roxanne (Margane Hainaux) and Bérénice (Alice Dubuisson) are trying to talk Armelle into accepting her lover's death. One accompanies her to see a medium, whereupon a Reynaud lookalike, Hippolyte (also Aurélien Wiik) appears. Armelle next has awoken from a coma, apparently brought on by taking pills, and now she may have acquired special powers -- including the ability to draw Hippolyte away from another woman to kiss her instead. In the last shot, Armelle, alone again, goes to Reynaud, whom she hears calling her from inside a forest.

    This new film by Civeyrac is beautiful, elegant, and classically French, evoking Cocteau more than Rohmer. But treating its heavy theme of suffering and loss in a manner that's equivocal, even frivolous, and being after all only sixty-five minutes long, this latest work by the little-known director, who teaches in a prestigious French film school, feels tantalizing and incomplete.
  • dmeneret3 October 2005
    65 minutes of pure perfection in 10 shots. An ode to the divine beauty and charm of Camille Berthomier who acts sensually and tragically throughout this reverie. Nothing is left apart here and Civeyrac creates a unique atmosphere with music (John Cage - songs sung by the lead actress), light (the bodies exposed to darkness and light at different), sound and choreography [(Civeyrac's sensibility to movement and harmony of bodies and movement of the camera being linked to the fact he has lived with a choreographer for 5 years) that gets its roots in the best of Truffaut (the literary process of the film, the fascination with women and love), Bresson (the purity of each shot, each emotion), Godard (Camille Berthomier being his muse, his Anna Karina). The best film shown at the New York Film Festival 2005 and certainly one of the very best films of 2005.
  • There is something quite uncanny about À travers la forêt. If you take a look at Camille Berthomier in her role in this movie as protagonist Armelle, and compare her to Juliette Gréco as Aglaonice (leader of the Bacchantes) in Jean Cocteau's Orphée you can see a quite striking resemblance in terms of looks, facial expression and eventually hairstyle. Also of interest is that both movies are neoclassical, and contain supernatural mirror tricks.

    Armelle is one of three sisters (Bérénice and Roxane are the others), who bring to mind references such as the witch sisters of Macbeth, or the three Graces, Fates, or Gorgons of classical mythology. The Graces are hinted at the most with the classical triangular arrangement employed when the sisters visit a bar. Although both Bérénice and Roxane have men, we never see them, and the only time the other two sisters are on screen they complete a circle with Armelle, that no-one else enters. It's all the more potent then that Armelle's obsession with her dead boyfriend is rupturing the extreme valency of this unit.

    The feel of the movie is what's important here, the movie pays absolutely no lip service to zeitgeist, minimalist sets with few extras, a movie that stays indoors until the climax, and every scene is shot continuously, to create an organic feeling. Someone once said that every edit is like an abrupt awakening from a dream, here Civeyrac keeps the movie as dream-like as possible.

    A question that arises for me from watching the movie is the nature of a woman's love, which seems here to relate very much to the feeding of vanity and egotism by flattery, where a man's role is simply to be the "mirror mirror on the wall". As Sophie Marceau intoned in Possession, "The only thing women have in common, is menstruation", but I have certainly met one or two women who fall into the Armelle mould.

    À travers la forêt is very loosely based on neoclassicist Jean Racine's 1677 play Phèdre, where a woman is also driven mad by love, and an innocent male character (called Hippolyte in play and film) is used by the female protagonist. The unusually named sisters of Armelle are also sourced from Racine (Roxane from the play Bazajet, and Bérénice eponymously).

    It's a short film (just over an hour) but manages to build up a ferocity of madness by the end that is quite overwhelming. I also am an absolute sucker for films that use John Cage music, in this case "Two⁴" for Violin and Sho (played by the great Irvine Arditti, and Mayumi Miyata), but most fittingly Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question".
  • Jamester15 September 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this as part of the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. This was a good movie. The premise of a woman who's boyfriend passes but is still somehow in contact with him creates an intriguing platform from where the director does many things well.

    In particular, the somewhat supernatural and eerie mood was set right off the start with suspenseful music, clever shots that made good use of light and darkness, and a screenplay that flowed from piece to piece.

    A technique that the director used was to label each section of the movie with a chapter title. My feeling was this was not necessary and the story could flow without it. Moreover, what it did was highlight the focus of the next section thus acting almost as a 'spoiler' to what might happen next. Yet this would not be my biggest beef. For me, the movie didn't feel like it finished. I didn't realize the movie finished, and hence felt that funding for the money forced the movie to end prematurely. At 65 minutes (or so), this was a fairly short feature film.

    While there were some interesting moments and ideas in this movie, the lack of an 'ending' left me feeling unsatisfied with this movie.