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Critique : Un pays en flammes


- CANNES 2024 : Paradis pyrotechnique dans le premier long métrage expérimental de Mona Convert, dont l’histoire se déroule dans la forêt landaise, en Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Critique : Un pays en flammes

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

If you’ve felt the magic of fireworks in person, you know that looking at photos and videos of them is never quite the same. In her debut feature, Mona Convert ambitiously refutes this idea to create A Fireland, which has had its world premiere in the ACID section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. This expansive, rhythmically driven experimental film connects the wizardry of master pyrotechnicians with the forest and farmland they live on in South West France. We are introduced to Convert’s universe in extreme darkness – as the film is shot with minimal (if any) additional lighting, you might even have to squint a little to capture it all until your eyes adjust to the conditions.

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A Fireland loosely follows pyrotechnicians Margot Auzier and Patrick Auzier, Margot’s father, who, in real life, live in a village in the Landes forest in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. But Convert’s work is neither fully fiction nor fully documentary, partly staged and partly observational, with a supporting cast of friends and family of the Auziers: Jean Pujol-Auzier, Myriam Roubinet, Vincent Mazaudier, Fabien Coulombier and others. As writer, director and also cinematographer, she lenses the film much like a home video, camera twisting and turning to catch up with moving characters, but patient and still in times of camaraderie and unity.

Granted, it’s not a film for all audiences; patience is key to becoming immersed in this mystical world. The movie plays out somewhat like a fireworks display: small peaks and valleys with a bit of mystery along the way, leading up to an explosive finish, quite literally. In slower moments, we are witnesses to farm life in rural France: family and friends work together to clean and cook a pig, while another person wraps blood sausages. Viewers are privy to the slowness of the farmland, too: sheep and other animals roam around, some even staring directly at the camera, evoking moments from Denis Côté’s Bestiaire. In one of the most gripping narrative sequences, we see Margot don a suit and helmet strapped completely full with pyrotechnics. After they are lit, sparks quickly shoot out from a human-shaped silhouette walking away from the camera.

There’s a certain inescapable magical, or perhaps supernatural, quality to the film, arising in both visual and audio form. A Fireland is set to a recording of a live performance by Bernard Lubat and Fabrice Vieira, their score filled with dissonant synths, ethereal singing and eerie spoken vocal lines that sound like incomprehensible incantations, bringing a witching-hour aesthetic to the aural environment. Fireworks, human labour, footsteps and nature are moulded together in an intertwined soundscape by Carlos Filipe Fonseca Cavaleiro, from the pop-pop-pop-whoosh of crackling pyrotechnics to the sounds of farm cooking. Experimental-film enthusiasts can also draw parallels from the film’s firework sequences with Nishikawa Tomonari’s Light, Noise, Smoke, and Light, Noise, Smoke, a hypnotic and rhythmic six-minute short film also depicting fireworks and lensed on 16 mm. Viewers are left pondering the intricate symbiosis between human and nature that seems to reveal itself over the course of the running time – maybe magic really only does happen in darkness.

A Fireland is a French production by Triptyque Films, co-produced by Portugal’s Kintop.

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(Traduit de l'anglais)

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