Leaving Paradis Perdu
- A melody of bodies confronts the symphony of the elements in Paradis Perdu by Eve Deboise, with Pauline Etienne and Olivier Rabourdin, presented at the Brussels Film Festival
A natural setting galvanized by the sun and lashed by the wind, with the earth and mountains as its sole horizon. Hands that turn over the soil. Fine, slender hands, then strong, virile hands which intertwine in a sensual, meticulously orchestrated ballet, in which exchanges take place as much between bodies as with the natural elements. On the banks of a rushing river, two unexpected naked bodies offer themselves to the rays of the burning sun and seek the coolness of the water, the bodies of a robust father in his forties, and his daughter, almost no longer an adolescent. A forest straight out of a fairytale, lit by a generous moon, a clearing touched by enchantment, the gentle shade of a fig-tree, all these places constitute the Paradise Lost of Lucie (Pauline Etienne) and Hugo (Olivier Rabourdin). Lost not because it has disappeared, but because it is unknown to others, as when we say of a location that it is lost, far from the rest of the world.
Lucie is going to sit her baccalauréat, but has already left school, and her everyday life is shared out between the work she attacks heart and soul in the nursery owned by her father, Hugo, and the household tasks abandoned by a fickle and flighty mother. Day after day, Lucie and her father weave together the threads of an intimacy which is disproportionate, to the advantage of those who are absent. However, the apron Lucie forces herself to wear is that of a de-sensualized mother, far removed from the few trinkets left behind by her own mother, incongruous testimonies to a sensuality stifled by the ultra-rural nature of the setting. And this apron worn so awkwardly hides a body in search of itself. In the distance, Hakim, the seasonal worker (Ouassini Embarek) passes by, as does the driving instructor; the only incursions from the outside world into this closed but open-air universe. Until the day the unfaithful wife returns, she who listens to her body (Florence Thomassin), a true provocation in a world where frustration is the rule. Hugo, totally distraught, is transformed into a fairy-tale ogre, locking this bit of craziness into the heart of the story. From then on, nothing feels right any more, the precarious balance of life in the nursery is disrupted and the fragile limits which had been maintained between bodies disintegrate, to end up with a sort of tale of initiation that comes to its conclusion with the emancipation of the young heroine and separations which mark the start of a new life.
Despite a rather delicate theme hovering around the possibility of incest, the atmosphere developed by Eve Deboise for this first film is never unhealthy. Her characters, however stereotyped (the frustrating and frustrated father, the teenager going through an awakening of the senses and a fickle mother, jealous of her own daughter) never fall into caricature, thanks to a screenplay in which dialogue is rare, the acting of a cast in close communion with their characters, the nature surrounding them and the story that carries them along. From a subject which is, after all, perfectly classic (the awakening of the senses, sensual initiation, emancipation from the family), Eve Deboise has produced a sensitive first film, in which the force of nature puts into perspective the moving hesitation of characters lost in their feelings and emotions.
(Translated from French)
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