- VENICE 2023: Belgian director Fien Troch offers a fantastic escape in all meanings of the word in the mysterious lands of faith and peer pressure
After winning the Best Director prize for Home [+see also:
interview: Fien Troch
film profile] in the Orizzonti section, Belgian filmmaker Fien Troch returns to the Venice Film Festival, this time in official competition, with his fifth feature, Holly [+see also:
interview: Fien Troch
One morning, Holly wakes up and doesn’t want to go to school, so she calls to let the secretary know. It must be said that over there, she’s more on the side of the outcasts, those that we quietly bully for sport. A good reason to stay home in itself, but today, that’s not it. She has a hunch – and she’s right. Fast forward to a few months later – the community mourns the 10 victims of the fire that started that day. There’s no fire without smoke, and at first, Holly’s premonitions make her a suspect. One day, however, one of the teachers invites her to take part in a support group for the victims’ families. A mysterious bond is forged between these families and the young girl. She finds herself invested with a strange power by those who thought they had lost faith.
Holly progressively deploys a strange tragedy around a heroine sanctified despite herself. Overwhelmed by the weight she’s made to carry on her shoulders, as well as intoxicated by the fact that she finally feels useful and considered, Holly, with her predestined name, sees her gift turn into a curse. Through the chaotic destiny of his heroine, Fien Troch questions our relationship to others and to faith: what makes us believe, and what makes us doubt? How does the gaze of others condition and shape us? In a world desperate for idols, Holly and her Mona Lisa smile sees herself transformed into a modern-day Madonna, thanks not to God but to a woman who goes on a crusade because she needs to believe, more than ever. What makes Holly a saint? Is it her premonition, or the blind faith that is placed on her? The plot interrogates Holly’s sincerity, but our own answer, our own relationship to the idea of the miracle, certainly weighs more than the answers that the film suggests.
To address this timeless question, the filmmaker invokes two vibrant popular culture figures: the saint, already mentioned, but also the witch. The teenager on the doorstep of adulthood, by crossing the border, also comes into contact with the occult. Her emerging femininity is as much a blessing as it is a threat. She is also the expiatory victim of the vices of the world.
For both image and sound, Fien Troch refers to genre cinema. Holly is tense like a horror movie. The beginning of the film, in a park on the edge of the woods at dawn, invites us to enter strange fictional territories. Johnny Jewel’s music takes us into the world of possessed heroines, as in Carrie or The Exorcist, while the context itself is extremely realistic. Holly is amazingly played by the young Cathalina Geeraerts, in her very first role. At her side, we find Bart, a key character that nevertheless remains in Holly’s shadow, until the majestic ending that reveals him. He is played by another newcomer, Felix Hermans, and Fien Troch’s directing of actors, which was already noteworthy in Home and Kid [+see also:
film profile], is also worth mentioning.
Holly was produced by Mirage (Belgium) and Prime Time (Belgium), and co-produced by Les Films du Fleuve (Belgium), Tarantula (Luxemburg), Topkapi Films (Netherlands), Tabiki Film (Netherlands), and Agat Films (France). International sales are handled by MK2.
(Translated from French)
Photogallery 07/09/2023: Venice 2023 - Holly
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