Happy Times Will Come Soon: In the depths of nature
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2016: Italy's Alessandro Comodin presents a sensitive and cryptic fable set in the dark heart of the forest
Italian filmmaker Alessandro Comodin, who turned heads with the sensual Summer of Giacomo [+see also:
film profile], belongs to that small group of adventurous European directors to whom a young guardian angel, Portugal's Miguel Gomes, has willingly given his blessing as they have attempted to probe and dig down to the very foundations of the seventh art, backed up by a network of producers who are not at all afraid to experiment. With Happy Times Will Come Soon [+see also:
film profile], shown as a special screening in the Critics' Week at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, Comodin does not stray from this uncompromising artistic line governed by sensations, movement, light, sound, breaks in the narrative, and a complete rejection of any psychological (or other) explanation. But this very firm stance, teetering between fiction and documentary, does not rule out the inclusion of an underlying conceptual or intellectual layer, conveyed through elliptical clues, which turns the film into a hyperrealistic, crypto-symbolic work that may well be impenetrable for some, while others may find themselves more easily immersed as they willingly take the plunge into the unknown.
Consisting of two separate sections that gradually start to match up and forge links between one another, Happy Times Will Come Soon steadily progresses cloaked in mystery. Starting off in the style of an escape film (but an escape from where? This is never revealed), with a long, frantic and exhausting race through the woods in pitch black, the first "chapter" sees the gentle Tommaso (Erikas Sizonovas) and the wily Arturo (Luca Bernardi) hide out in the depths of the forest, where they try to survive in the most extreme destitution (feeding on roots, setting a trap for a rabbit, bathing in the streams, walking endlessly and huddling around the fire), until they are reunited with humankind and the ensuing violence... This return to nature is then repeated by Ariane (Sabrina Seyvecou), the main character in the second part of the film and the heroine in a kind of allegory introduced by a story told at the point where the two tales cross over: the story of a wolf that, every 40 years, falls in love with a white doe, wishes to marry it, assumes an almost human-like wickedness and ends up killing out of sheer rage. Alessandro Comodin dramatises this fable by embellishing it with underground explorations (including both spelunking and voyages into the subconscious) and an intentional regression to the wild, a break with society that is akin to a desperate attempt to recover from a serious illness, but which will only lead the characters to merge with – and be sacrificed to – the merciless forces of nature that spin the perpetual wheel of time.
Happy Times Will Come Soon requires the viewer to really let themselves go, but benefits from some impressive work on the cinematography (DoP Tristan Bordmann literally carves out light and shade) and the art of syncopation (both in the narrative and the sound), which allows the film to breathe at the right time, just when it is on the verge of being overpowered and getting carried away by its own search to plumb the depths of the abyss. This journey through nature and space-time was produced by Okta Film together with Shellac and Arte France Cinéma, and it is being sold abroad by The Match Factory.
(Translated from French)