Review: Spirit of Ecstasy
- Héléna Klotz thrusts a class defector into the ruthless world of trading and algorithms, creating an extraordinary, modern-day heroine for a fascinating film
"The model grossly underestimates unlikely events, crises or cracks which are far less uncommon that the equation provides for." In this world that we live in, dominated by technological acceleration and where social status is often directly linked to money, "the place of humans on the battlefield of the future" is in question. This is the crux of Héléna Klotz’s captivating Spirit of Ecstasy [+see also:
interview: Héléna Klotz
film profile], unveiled in the Platform competition of the 48th Toronto Film Festival. The title directly references the statuette decorating Rolls-Royces, "its eyes fixed on the horizon as if all doors will open before it", echoing the world of trading and international finance through which our "next generation" heroine is trying to beat a path, with the aim of fulfilling ambitions of social advancement, even though she doesn’t hail from the established order.
Jeanne Francoeur (acting revelation Claire Pommet, on screen for the first time and better known by her singer-name Pomme) is 24 years old with a good business school and two years of prep maths at the Saint Cyr military school under her belt. Living in gendarmerie barracks in the Paris suburbs with her lieutenant father (Grégoire Colin) and her (far younger) brother and sister, she tries to get a job as a "quant" (quantitative analyst) in banks and investment companies. But despite her gift for maths, the armour of a suit, her tomboy verging on androgenous figure and her sharp mind, it proves incredibly difficult to cross the divide in this brutal professional environment, whose underlying social codes she doesn’t yet comprehend. Until, one day, a window opens in the form of an internship.
Singled out by her boss, Farès (Sofiane Zermani), who’s getting ready to launch a fund in Singapore and who’s canvassing potential investors (notably the NGO World Aid - steered by heiress Anna Mouglalis - to the tune of €200m), Jeanne is thrust into new spheres which are a far cry away from her original environment and her complicated feelings for gendarme Augustin (Niels Schneider), who’s back after a four-year assignment in Africa. But, as Farès says: "it’s all well and good being ambitious but you know what they call the highest point of Everest? The death zone"…
Having distinguished herself with her first feature film Atomic Age [+see also:
interview: Héléna Klotz
film profile] (screened in the Berlinale’s 2012 Panorama line-up), Héléna Klotz’s second opus confirms the full extent of her talent. Boasting pace (notably an explosive start), a well-balanced mix of realism (in terms of stupefying job interviews, the aggressiveness of trading rooms, life in the vacuum of military barracks, etc.) and unapologetic novelistic approach ("you don’t spoil a good story with the truth, so you let them fantasise "), and an endearing, high-powered female protagonist learning to find the courage to be vulnerable, Spirit of Ecstasy is a film that’s totally of its time (based on a screenplay penned by the director, together with Noé Debré and Emily Barnett). And even though the characters’ private lives are used more as a zone to reflect on the professional twists and turn driving the story forwards, the film does an excellent job of imposing its super-dynamic tone and its clear-sighted predictions for the future, which are already our present reality.
(Translated from French)
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