Tonnerre: The tenderness and cruelty of love
by Fabien Lemercier
- Discovered in competition in Locarno, the first feature by the very promising Guillaume Brac is a subtle work played by the intense Vincent Macaigne.
"What odd animals, these humans!”. That could be what the dog of the paternal house of the protagonist is thinking in Tonnerre [+see also:
film profile] by Guillaume Brac. A dog to whom his master recites the poem La nuit d'octobre by Alfred de Musset and his words enlighten the intrigue of this very promising first feature: "Honte à toi qui la première M'as appris la trahison, Et d'horreur et de colère M'as fait perdre la raison" (lit. “Shame on you who was the first To teach me about betrayal, And with horror and despair, Made me lose my mind”). Because this subtle film, which was discovered in competition in Locarno, is indeed all about loving passion, a work skilfully distilling clues of a shift between a realistic romance to a tragedy with noir aspects. In the soft and nostalgia-filled atmosphere of Tonnerre, a small town in the Bourgogne region, a story will unfold with many things left unsaid and impulsive actions, all carried by a very intense Vincent Macaigne (on the rise after The Rendez-Vous of Déjà vu [+see also:
film profile] and La Bataille de Solférino [+see also:
film profile]), surrounded by experienced actor Bernard Menez and young actress Solène Rigot.
Having temporarily left Paris to stay with his father (Menez) for two months, Maxime (Macaigne) is a rock star famous enough to attract Mélodie (Rigot), a young local journalist looking for an interview which turns into a love affair. A bit overwhelmed by this ultra-rural universe with its wine tastings, dance lessons, a night club linked to a medieval crypt and escapes into the nearby countryside covered in snow (from which the film makes good visual use), Maxime writes, alone in his room with his electric guitar and computer, only rarely talking to his widowed father. But the joyful tenderness of the loving escapades suddenly ends with no explanations from Mélodie, opening (or probably re-opening) a deep wound for Maxime who will then undertake a rather radical investigation…
From this love at first sight story gone wrong whose universality no longer needs to be demonstrated, Guillaume Brac masterfully builds a quick and accurate story whose apparent simplicity hides a sharp understanding of human nature and cinematographic narration. Served by a very good screenplay (written by the director with Hélène Ruault), which avoids the trap of psychological explanations, the film excels in the delivery of information and makes great use of the suggestive set of the town of Tonnerre. The filmmaker succeeds in delicately drawing the portrait of a man stuck in an intermediary zone of his life, between the emotional upheavals of the past (which will partly be revealed through the evolution of his relationship with his father) and a potentially happy future in which he dives into head first but is suddenly taken away from him. A smart move that enables the film to gain in amplitude and harvest in the last straight all the added value brilliantly stored in until then by a filmmaker who also displays (in this same swank-less spirit) a great sense of image and editing.
After the award-winning medium-length movie A World Without Women, Guillaume Brac therefore gets an A+ on his first feature test and we now await his next opus with much anticipation and curiosity.
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