20 November 2012 | guy-bellinger
A walk through medieval magic
Although Georges Méliès invented the genre, fantasy has never been French cinema's specialty. There are a few notable exceptions of course (Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bête", Georges Franju's "La tête contre les murs", François Ozon's "Ricky" are a few examples), but on the whole it looks as if Gallic creators are more at ease with the description of the visible than the evocation of the invisible. So, it always comes as a divine surprise when a French filmmaker dares try his/her hand at this genre, and even more so when he/she does it successfully. Such is the case of Lucie Borleteau, a young director-producer-actress who, for her second short, was bold enough to venture into the realm of the irrational. With "Les Voeux", a 33 minute little gem deftly adapted by Borleteau and Clara Bourreau from a novella by Pascal Quignard ("Tous les matins du monde"), she plunges us into some undefined rural Middle Ages. A period ruled by ignorance, superstition, legend and primal fear but also a time when people are an integral part of Nature. One of Lucie Berleteau remarkable talents is precisely to make tangible this odd environment. This is our world for sure (cinematographer Tom Harari restores all the beauties of the Limousin and Vendée natural sites he films without excessive aestheticism) but at the same time what happens before our eyes is not of this world. There is magic in it, not recreated by means of costly high tech special effects, but seemingly captured by the camera as if it oozed out of the landscape itself. The director's talent is so great that you feel as if all the events and characters are nothing but normal whereas you are put in presence of... a fairy playing a primitive organ, a belt that transforms into a water snake and a lord whose name (Heidebic de Hel) the heroine must remember in a year's time or she will belong to him forever ! And that is not all. The tale indeed, which works perfectly as some kind of legend of yore, also functions as a metaphor for gender relations, and the difficulties there have always been and there will always be when it comes to forming a solid couple. To declare one's love to the object of desire and to accept the other as his/her partner is not enough to make the new entity (husband/wife) work, as Colbrune and Bjorn soon realize. It is only through the ordeal imposed by life (in the tale by Heidebic de Hel, one of Satan's other names of course) that the married couple will end up existing. The moral is clear: if you do not support your partner in hardship, if you do not fight for him/her, sexual attraction will not do the job in the long run. Lucie Borleteau brings liveliness, beauty and simplicity to the character of Colbrune. She is well supported by Xavier Depoix as Bjorn, her surly baby-faced husband, by Jean-Louis Coulloc'h (The gardener of Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley"), who manages not to overplay in the role of the Devil and by Anne Consigny who lends her natural elegance to the character of the Belle Dame (the fairy).