The End: Night of the hunter, twilight of an idol
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2016: Guillaume Nicloux brings us a dark forest story in which he uses Gérard Depardieu to portray the loneliness of a man whose life is behind him
After The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq [+see also:
film profile] (screened at Berlin in 2014) and Valley of Love [+see also:
film profile] (which competed at last year’s Cannes Film Festival), in which he skilfully played with the characters of Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert with a good dose of humour thrown in, setting them off on an amusing treasure hunt across the arid plains of Nevada, Guillaume Nicloux repeats the feeling of a parodic-biographical game, this time with just Depardieu, all by himself, in The End [+see also:
film profile], which was unveiled in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival (3 years on from having The Nun [+see also:
interview: Guillaume Nicloux
film profile] selected for the competition). After all it is, in many respects, an introspective and experimental film – almost Denis Côté-esque in style.
The humour we experience in Valley is there all right, if only in the way "The End" appears in the middle of the screen right at the beginning of the film – in English of course, as there’s no doubt about it that it is also the twilight of a film idol that Nicloux is portraying here, with the collusion of the great actor himself (who moreover accepts the director’s approach and goes with it so graciously). Nevertheless, the rabbit’s hole down which he throws his character this fine morning – whilst this solitary pot-bellied bumpkin, who talks to his dog Yoshi as he eats slices of bread in front of his collection of decorated plates, thinks he’s going hunting – is a lot more unsettling than than Carroll’s Wonderland and a lot less sunny than the “valley” in the film with Huppert. Here, the character is dragged down into the darkness of a hostile forest in which it’s the hunter that’s made to feel like the prey.
Lost (like a grotesque Tom Thumb marking his path with Schweppes bottles and fag ends), alone and reduced to prey, he adopts the behaviour and gestures of a terrified beast, and Nicloux uses the actor’s animalistic movements to produce an almost tragic contrast with his humanness: his flabbergasted mind that keeps telling him "this isn’t possible" and compassion that naturally makes him more of a protector than a victim (like when he tries to help the thin naked girl that appears before him, who he sees as a victim of even greater misfortunes than his own in these nightmarish woods). Because this contrast is so deeply saddening, we quickly understand that what we’re watching isn’t the story of a day in the life of a hunter (who isn’t, moreover, bloodthirsty, but actually very respectful of the rules). What Nicloux is showing us, is the everyday hell of a man nearing his seventies who, in spite of his blokish good nature, wakes up a little more alone everyday.
(Translated from French)
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