The Together Project: Love at first sight in Montreuil
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2016: Solveig Anspach’s last film is a delectable comedy about a love that’s romantic as hell and a story about water to boot
At the halfway point of the Cannes Film Festival, Tuesday 18 May, as the European-Brazilian co-production team for Aquarius [+see also:
film profile] paraded down those famous steps, Directors’ Fortnight placed the "best gift" from late Icelandic director and Fémis graduate Solveig Anspach at the centre of its programme, a film with a very blue title to match (the original title literally means ‘The Aquatic Effect’). The production for The Together Project [+see also:
film profile] was negotiated around a broccoli gratin, a film that would alas be her last. It was therefore a very emotional audience that came to see this delightful film, 17 years on from the screening of the director’s debut feature, Haut les cœurs, in the same theatre, in which Anspach picks up the character from Queen of Montreuil [+see also:
interview: Solveig Anspach
film profile], Agathe (Florence Loiret-Caille), a small slender woman who is not easily taken in and once again goes off in search of answers in a postcard-perfect Iceland filmed with as much tenderness as the swimming pool in Montreuil where she works as a swimming instructor, with a healthy dose of humour thrown in.
The emotion that accompanied the loyal Franco-Icelandic team that came to present the film on stage was transformed, as soon as the lights went out, into moving bursts of laughter. The opening scene, in which Agathe rebuffs a small-time womaniser with unnerving self-confidence that still betrays her fragility, endears this character to us immediately. In fact, Samir (Samir Guesmi), who shyly watches the scene unfold from a corner of the bar, is enthralled. In an instant, this gentle oaf with his breathtakingly naive look falls hopelessly in love. Without any hesitation, after buying some swimming trunks with a pretty palm tree design, he signs up for a three-month subscription to the local swimming pool, where Agathe gives lessons alongside a fantastic array of municipal workers (Reboute the clumsy, Estéban the enthusiastic, the outrageous swimming instructor with the nice bum who everyone ogles), the everydayness of which gives the director the chance to give us funny and ridiculous moments taken from life.
When Agathe once again takes off to participate in an international swimming instructor convention she has been invited to by her Icelandic friend Anna (Didda Jónsdóttir, who forms a hilarious alternate mayor-assistant duo with a big guy not unlike Dingo), Samir packs his bags at once. At the convention, the situation shifts thanks to some funny subterfuge that gets him into the conference: in Iceland, Samir sends the women wild and galvanises the masses – the word "together", which he uses insistently along with the accompanying gesture and in combination with the word "project", probably because he speaks very little English, makes him a trailblazer in swimming pool geopolitics. A second electric shock puts Agathe in the same situation that he found himself in previously, transfixed by love like an earthworm in love with a star.
And so Solveig Anspach leaves us with a lovable film that tells a story of absolute love between characters that are strong-willed yet vulnerable, who accept one another and all their most unusual quirks (which only make them more authentic) and are reunited by water, seen not as a boundary but as a bridge between people and cultures, a place where everyone is united, like Agathe and Samir when they take a dip in the baby pool. It really is true that in the water, we all hear the same sounds. Here, it is a love song.
(Translated from French)