Transe: A nightmarish Europe
by Anne Feuillère
Teresa Villaverde is no stranger to major festivals. Her first feature film, Alex, was selected at Berlin in the Forum of Young Cinema in 1991. Three years later, Two Brothers, My Sister put her name among the stars, with the film’s selection in official competition at Venice, and won Maria de Medeiros the Best Actress Award.
In France, she was discovered in 1998 with The Mutants, which was released to critical acclaim after screening in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Her last masterpiece, Water and Salt, brought her to official competition once again, at the 2001 Venice Film Festival.
The Portuguese director has continued making films since then and this year presents a frightening vision of a nightmarish Europe in the Directors’ Fortnight. Trance [+see also:
film profile] transports us to a Europe of servants, body and soul slaves, an obscure world where "there is war … between people. The strongest kill the weak," says one of the modern soldiers who must fight constantly to survive.
The tale of a descent into hell, the film depicts all the social classes in enclosed spaces through an elliptic narrative and extremely long shots. Sonia (Ana Moreira, who last Sunday won the 2005 Globo de Ouro for Best Actress in Portugal) flees from a desert of Russian glaciers only to have the cold follow her. From the bedroom of her German hotel where she is taken prisoner to an Italian house where she is given as a present to the son of the family (Robinson Stévenin), she is robbed, raped, prostituted and seduced, and becomes a mere object, a lost body, cut off from society.
With a long running time that allows the images to pulsate, in places that could be anywhere (and are flat like a theatre set), and through the use of sound (off-camera voices as possible inner voices, from memories or dreams) and colour (whites, blues and greys as cold as the iciness from which she longs to escape), Trance is far from naturalistic and with its absence of linearity and strong poetic essence is an allegory, highly reminiscent of the films by Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira. However, while de Oliveira chose to depict the end of a civilisation in A Talking Picture, Villaverde films its damnation.
Sold internationally by Gémini Films, who are also handling distribution in France, Trance was produced by Paulo Branco’s Clap Filmes and his French outfit Gémini, in co-production with Italy’s Revolver. The film received backing from ICAM, the CNC and Eurimages.
(Translated from French)
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