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Review: Queen of Montreuil

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A widow, two Icelanders and a seal


- Tears and laughter take turns in this new film by the Icelandic director, a delicate and surreal story on the process of mourning and the potential for rebirth with the help of others.

Review: Queen of Montreuil

They say that when a woman gets over her husband’s death, she becomes a queen. Agathe, Queen of Montreuil [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Solveig Anspach
film profile
’s main character, is trying to mourn. All she has left of her husband is an urn full of ashes. She wants to be left alone to cry, but instead, she is faced with not one single moment of peace.

Presented during Venice Days, the new film by Icelandic director Solveig Anspach is a tale based on suffering and loss, which also touches on our capacity for rebirth, solidarity, and families born through common destinies, rather than common blood.

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It is a surprising comedy, where laughter and tears alternate and where the most disorienting moments leave way to grotesque situations, which lighten everything around them, including suffering.

Moments after she returns to Montreuil with her husband’s ashes, a lost but brave Agathe (Florence Loiret Caille) is faced with an Icelandic mother and son standing outside her house, asking for hospitality. The two are a rather original, eccentric couple (the woman is played by Didda Jonsdottir in her third film with the director, and the boy is played by Jonsdottir’s actual son), on their way back from Jamaica, hoping to get home to their country. The only problem is the airplane company they were flying back with has just gone bankrupt.

"I wanted the point of view to come from two outsiders, who through their endless stories and legends would manage to help the main character."

These two worlds colliding, France and Iceland with their respective cultures, is the starting point for a few exquisitely surreal excerpts. A surreal element which reaches its peak when a seal joins the rickety cast of characters.

"Directing a seal was not easy," explains Anspach, "there was a lot of tension on set. The seal, in cartoons, is depicted as a sweet and nice animal. In real life, it is a frightening thing: it weighs one hundred kilos and is as tall as us. I’d like to thank Florence for her courage."

Loiret Caille, meanwhile, thanks the director for entering her life. "A world turned upside down where you cry for love and laugh for death." And in Queen of Montreuil, laughter abounds, because the trials of life are so many, they might as well be taken on with a sense of humour.

(Translated from Italian)


original title: Queen of Montreuil
country: France
sales agent: Films Distribution
year: 2012
directed by: Sólveig Anspach
screenplay: Sólveig Anspach, Jean-Luc Gaget
cast: Florence Loiret-Caille, Didda Jónsdóttir, Úlfur Aegisson

main awards/selection

Biennale di Venezia 2012 Giornate degli autori - Venice Days
Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2012 
Arras Film Festival 2012 
Göteborg International Film Festival 2013 

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