Angel: A dreamlike fairy tale for adults
by Aurore Engelen
- With his latest film, Belgian filmmaker Harry Cleven brings us a strong sensorial experience, setting himself a bold challenge: showing us the invisible
Angel [+see also:
interview: Harry Cleven
film profile], which was unveiled this week at the Mons International Love Film Festival, is first and foremost a sensorial experience. Harry Cleven shows us the invisible, using the magical tricks of film. The premise is simple yet intriguing: an invisible young boy, Angel, falls in love with a young blind girl, Madeleine. Theirs is a perfect love, rich in purity and innocence, until the day Madeleine goes away for a while to have an operation. Upon her return, she has regained her sight. Will she be able to love Angel with her eyes in the same way as she does with her heart?
Harry Cleven expects the viewer to succumb completely to the power of fiction here, to immerse themselves with an open mind in this dreamlike love story, feeling their way. The form of the film has an outdated charm to it, a sort of tribute to a form of film that is long gone, that of the handmade special effects of Méliès, in which the magic came from the tricks of the big screen, the unreal became real, and surrealism became realism. Angel, this small invisible boy, is brought up in secret by his mother, who is in turn locked up in a mental health facility. We can’t see Angel, just the objects he moves or has an effect on, a spoon rising into the air, a patch of skin pressed down lightly by his caress. Angel’s father was a magician, and it’s definitely a show of the magical variety we see unfold before our eyes. Angel can only work his magic on the two women who share his secret: his mother and Madeleine.
This unconventional relationship is the pretext for a true whirlwind of the senses. We hear the silence, feel the character’s gazes, and see them with our hands. This awakening of the senses reflects that of the two teenagers as they discover love. To make us experience the film in the most sensorial way possible, most of it is shot from a subjective viewpoint. The camera looks through the eyes of Angel, and the only thing we see of him is the effect he has on the world and Madeleine. This whimsical and incredible love story takes place in a real sonorous and visual cocoon, notably crafted by director of photography Juliette Van Dormael, who creates an atmosphere as bright as it is muted. Her work on the film (her first feature film) has already won her the recognition of her peers, with her recently winning the Best Cinematography Debut Award at the prestigious Camerimage Festival, and being nominated at the American Society of Cinematographers Spotlight Awards.
Harry Cleven has not stepped foot in the world of film since Trouble [+see also:
interview: Harry Cleven - director of …
interview: Harry Cleven
film profile] en 2005. Since then he has made a number of TV series, and thought up and conceived Angel on a whim, upon being asked to do so by his producer friend Jaco Van Dormael, who encouraged him to make a film quickly and on a small budget, just for the fun of it. What was originally intended to be a marginal project, co-written with Thomas Gunzig (co-screenwriter for none other than The Brand New Testament [+see also:
interview: Jaco van Dormael
film profile] by Van Dormael), gradually became a much more important piece as more and more financial partners joined the project, but Harry Cleven managed to preserve the "handmade" quality of the initial project throughout, along with its simplicity.
Angel was produced by Olivier Rausin for Climax Films and Terra Incognita Films, Jaco Van Dormael’s company, as well as Après le déluge, the shared company of Olivier Rausin and Jaco Van Dormael. The film was also co-produced in Belgium by Savage Film in Flanders. It received support from the CCA, the VAF, Wallimage and screen.brussels, and will be released in Belgium on 5 May by Lumière.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.