Review: Love According to Dalva
- CANNES 2022: In her sober and moving first feature film, Emmanuelle Nicot paints the portrait of a child survivor who grew up dramatically too quickly
"I'm not a girl, I'm a woman.” Yet Dalva (Zelda Samson) is not really a woman, she is more like a doll. A doll made up, made up, dressed up by her father, who has made her his little woman. A docile doll, looking for love.
Love According to Dalva [+see also:
interview: Emmanuelle Nicot
interview: Emmanuelle Nicot, Julie Esp…
film profile], Emmanuelle Nicot's first feature film, selected for Critics' Week at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, begins in the middle of a crisis. Dalva is taken away from her home, taken away from her father. So she is given another home, where she will have to, or rather will be able to, finally be that girl, to live the childhood that was stolen from her. The transition is brutal, of course. Dalva is nothing but distrust and resistance. Short of breath, she questions the silent adults in front of her, wondering what they are trying to defend her from.
She is still an actress in the story her father has built up, in this forbidden love story. "But us, it’s nothing like that" she says. She sees their separation as an injustice. By taking her father away from her, it is love that is being taken away from her. She will have to be offered to the gaze of others, and especially to her own, for the conditioning she has been subjected to to disappear.
Sometimes, an emancipation is in something small, a pair of earrings that are solemnly removed. Appearance is at the heart of Dalva's life – at home, it is what allows her to perform what she is not, a woman. At the shelter, it is what will allow her to reclaim what was taken from her, her childhood, and her adolescence. The clothes her father bought her defined her. The ones she will buy herself, with the help of her educator, will allow her to free herself. Like the jacket lent to her by Samia (Fanta Guirassi, an excellent newcomer), the young girl whose room she shares and who will become a friend, they will allow her to be seen as something other than a doll, and help her to push open the door to a new life.
If Love According to Dalva begins in drama, summoning the ultimate crime of incest, the film is nevertheless a trajectory of reconstruction, and even invention. Dalva tends towards the light, and finally touches on carefree living. Emmanuelle Nicot looks at the aftermath, at reparation. Here, it is not so much talking that saves, but rather the re-appropriation of the body. This body is also that of Zelda Samson, the young actress who plays Dalva.
Emmanuelle Nicot has some good experience in street casting. Already in her short film A l'arraché, the story was magnified by the performance of the young actress discovered for the occasion. Filmed in 4/3, up close, often from behind, Zelda Samson lends her bubbling energy, first rebellious then increasingly luminous, to Dalva, a thwarted child who is finally given the time to discover adolescence at her own pace.
Love According to Dalva is produced by the Brussels company Hélicotronc and by the French company Tripode Productions, in co-production with Arte, Canal+, the RTBF, Proximus and Shelter Prod. International sales are handled by MK2.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.