Review: The Island
- Damien Manivel delivers a fascinating new film experience by incorporating “making of” aspects into an incredibly poignant story about seven young friends spending a final night on a beach
"It was the last evening of summer, the night before my departure for Montreal. My friends Olga, Damoh, Céleste, Ninona and Jules, my brother Yon and I decided to continue our evening on the island. We tended to meet at the foot of a large rock: that was the place we called the island." Over the course of five feature films, French director Damien Manivel has successfully imposed his singular voice as an experimental auteur, whose style blends bodily dimensions, the emotional power of faces, and a stripped-back realism flirting with poetry. After The Night I Swam [+see also:
interview: Damien Manivel, Kohei Igara…
film profile] (screened in Venice’s Orizzonti section in 2017), Isadora’s Children [+see also:
interview: Damien Manivel
film profile] (awarded the Leopard for Best Director in Locarno 2019) and Magdala [+see also:
interview: Damien Manivel
film profile] (screened in Cannes’ ACID section in 2022), to name just three of his works, the filmmaker drills down even deeper and explores another horizon in The Island [+see also:
film profile], which won a Special Mention in the national competition of the 34th FIDMarseille, as well as dominating the festival’s Ciné+ competition.
A surprising work which smoothly (the director is also responsible for the film’s editing and music) and dexterously incorporates “making of” elements into a fiction film which so wonderfully encapsulates a specific moment in youth that it could easily have been a documentary, The Island is a relatively unprecedented cocktail whose conceptual motifs merge into a snapshot of this very special moment at the end of adolescence, where the tightest groups are on the brink of disbanding for new adventures in the adult world. It’s this suspended moment in time, in a night tinged with all kinds of emotions (frenetic festive gathering, growing melancholy, fear of the unknown, etc.), which the film homes in on.
"What kind of images could have imprinted themselves on her mind so strongly, even if only details? Something memorable". Damien Manivel fine-tunes the various stages of the story by rehearsing (in theatres, and then on the beach in the daytime) with his young protagonists. "Breathe in the air of the island", "she walks among the ruins of the evening", "she touches the rock", "the group was breaking apart": Rosa’s (Rosa Berder) departure, scheduled for dawn the next day, is the guiding thread for this night on the beach. The seven protagonists dance, frolic, and splash around in the water, showing their love for one another and exchanging secrets, promises and fatalistic worries ("you want us to go for a walk on the island. The island won’t even exist anymore, the sea will have swallowed it up"); they get drunk, share cigarettes and joints (which make some of them sick); they sing La Llorona (the one who cries), they argue and then make up… The filmmaker provides all kinds of off-camera directions, he whispers them their lines, and filmed rehearsal scenes are blended with "real footage"; Rosa’s voiceover punctuates the film’s story, we see the moon (variations in emotions) in slow motion, and innermost feelings flow forth, thanks to flexible, up-close and fast-paced framing. It all combines to create a fascinating introduction to filmmaking and a dazzling snapshot of the exuberance of youth across one night on a beach, in the final days of summer.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.