Fauves: Freedom at any cost
by Muriel Del Don
- With its surreal undertones and pervasive sense of mystery, the first full-length feature by Robin Erard which had its première at the Hof International Film Festival is a genuine surprise
The young Swiss director had already transported us to mysterious surrounds populated by ambivalent characters with his short film Elder Jackson, but with Fauves [+see also:
film profile], Robin Erard takes surrealism to new levels à la suisse.
Enriched by a surprising cast - Jonathan Zaccaï (Mercy [+see also:
interview: Fulvio Bernasconi
film profile], Private Lessons [+see also:
interview: Jacques-Henri Bronckart
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile]) and the great young French hope Zacharie Chasseriaud (The Giants [+see also:
interview: Bouli Lanners
film profile]) - Robin Erard catches the audience off-guard with this cruel and mysterious tale where violence, ghosts (in the widest possible sense of the word) and naivety reign supreme. Fauves shows us that freedom can take many forms and that the price we pay to obtain it can sometimes be too high.
Oskar is a rebellious adolescent who was orphaned as a child and lives with his legal guardians, Elvis and Fanny Eggard. Oskar longs to escape, far away from everyone and everything, to Zimbabwe where he lived the early years of his life with his parents. He needs a large amount money to achieve his dream and getting hold of it is in no way an easy task. Added to this, Elvis pushes Oskar to work hard for his diploma, ignoring Oskar’s ever-lowering levels of enthusiasm. The angry power struggle that dominates their relationship will gradually give way to violence with consequences that neither of them could have foreseen. Oskar’s world will be turned upside down and his thirst for freedom will turn into a desperate need to escape in order to survive. What will become of Elvis now that he’s alone? Will madness drag him into the abyss, forcing him to show his true colours?
While Fauves is destabilizing in both its narrative development and the psychology of its characters, on first viewing it can also be difficult for spectators to embrace the film’s atmosphere, which is enchanting but unrealistic. It is exactly this excessive dose of “irrationalism” that initially keeps the spectator at a distance. Why would Oskar commit such an unforgivable act? Why introduce, in such a sudden and unexpected way, this element (homicide) into the narrative? These and other questions swarm inside the viewer’s mind and ultimately this could hinder our full enjoyment of Erard’s aesthetically powerful images that are, at times, reminiscent of the formal elegance of Dario Argento’s early films. This is where Italian thrillers, with their strict aesthetic codes and glacial undertones, could help us to fully appreciate Fauves. The narration is at times incomprehensible and to some extent (intentionally) halting, but this is the case for films that are now milestones of the genre such as Suspiria and Deep Red, but also lesser known masterpieces such as The House with Laughing Windows and Damned in Venice. In this respect, it doesn’t matter if the characters’ reactions are excessive - baroque almost - what matters is the intensity of the scene, the formal beauty of the frames and the bewitching perversion of the characters. We can find all of these elements in Erard’s film - perhaps only in their embryonic stages, but their presence is undisputable.
(Translated from Italian)
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