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Review: Black Heaven

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Day and night


- Mysterious spiral and dangerous desires in the second directorial feature by French screenwriter Gilles Marchand. A disturbing film acclaimed out of competition at Cannes 2010

Review: Black Heaven

In his second directorial feature, Black Heaven [+see also:
film focus
interview: Gilles Marchand, director o…
film profile
, excellent screenwriter Gilles Marchand once again uses the predator/prey motif of Who Killed Bambi? (also presented out of competition at Cannes in 2003), as well as its atmosphere of pervasive disquiet, whilst gracefully combining it with the mood of sun-filled holidays in the South of France. The film is halfway between Eric Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale (moreover, it stars Melvil Poupaud, except that here his character is evil and it’s Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet who plays the role of the young Gaspard) and the dark twists and turns of Mulholland Drive in a cybernetic version, for Marchand bases much of the work on fascinating computer-generated images meticulously directed by Djibril Glissant.

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In the film, the shift between the two worlds happens gradually. The film opens with the laughter of happy and healthy teenagers, that of lovely couple Marion (Pauline Étienne) and Gaspard, who exchange a few stolen kisses before returning home like a good boy and girl. It’s then that the lovers notice an abandoned mobile phone which sets them on the trail of a mystery that is intriguing but as seemingly harmless as an investigation by "The Famous Five".

A meeting in a chapel, a detour to a DIY shop, a stroll to the sound of cicadas...The adventure seems to end there but then the barking of a dog, half-white rabbit, half-Cerberus, leads them to interrupt a suicide that is both love-related and depraved. They save the girl, Audrey, played by a Louise Bourgoin who is both fragile and deadly, and whose tattoos on the small of her back, bathed in the fluorescent waters of a night-time swimming pool, previously attracted attention after her performance in a very different role as Adèle Blanc-Sec.

Despite his good nature, Gaspard is then drawn into the fantastical virtual world of the online game "Black Hole", where Audrey, under the pseudo Sam, seems to revel in a strange desire for death. Indeed, the blackness of this parallel world haunted by the music of M83, whose masked characters recall the hellish carnival created by Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut, is for Audrey a soothing "paradise" (the word "Heaven" is tattooed on her lower back), a beach, where nobody laughs.

There has been talk on the Croisette of the corresponding themes between this film and Dutch title R U There [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: David Verbeek, director of …
film profile
. However, Marchand’s skilfulness lies in the way he transcends discussions about real world versus virtual world – moreover, we notice that the online dialogue in the film is merely a reflection of real-life conversational asides. If the director wholly embraces modern methods (thematically and technically), he does so in order to evoke the dark recesses of desire and their eternal power of seduction, even over a nice boy like Gaspard. We won’t reveal the gloomy pact behind this dangerous spiral and who is the slave or prey of whom; this mystery will undoubtedly keep numerous viewers in suspense when the film is released.

(Translated from French)


international title: Black Heaven
original title: L’autre monde
country: France, Belgium
sales agent: Memento Films International
year: 2010
directed by: Gilles Marchand
screenplay: Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll
cast: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Louise Bourgoin, Pauline Etienne, Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Niney, Ali Marhyar

main awards/selection

Cannes 2010 Official Selection
Out of Competition

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