Einfach das Ender der Welt might sound like a science fiction film and even though it is far from being one, the film is an emotional apocalyptic tale. An absent son returns home after 12 years for just one day. A day filled with moments charged with meaning, worn down relationships and repressed feelings that could only mean the end of the world.
Xavier Dolan (director from Mommy) tells us the story about Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a well known writer that after 12 years decides to come home to announce something to his family. His mother, sister, brother and sister-in-law are waiting for him full of stories that would slowly turn into recriminations. On the contrary to Dolan’s previous films, here the characters are constantly trying not to lose their temper, picking carefully every word, making the subtext more important than the dialogues. An emotional claustrophobia.
On the first scene we see Louis sitting on a plane. This image shows us a closeup of Louis framed by out of focus and dark surroundings. He’s absorbed in his thoughts, he’s afraid, he feels guilty. At home the family awaits him, his mother (Nathalie Baye), who superficially attempts to act like nothing has happened, his sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux) and his sister-in.law (Marion Cotillard), who wait anxiously by the door, and his brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel), who can’t disguise his anger. Louis’s arrival happens fast and with no time to think or react, the scene is filled with superfluous small talk that tries to overcome the void.
One by one everybody will have their time alone with Louis, they will talk and try to fill in the silence, the unbearable long time repressed feelings. Each character tries to tell their own story, to flood the scenes with words untill they explode in mini-climaxes that won’t lead to anything. They are caught so much in their personal catharsis that they won’t listen to each other, and specially to Louis who is incapable to say something. The film is packed with oppression and darkness. Together with the wonderful camera work from André Turpin, Dolan makes us feel the claustrophobia that the characters are feeling, by shooting everything with closeups and blurred backgrounds, forcing us not only to listen to them but to look closer to their expressions of crisis.
But not everything is dark in the film. In order to release the pressure Dolan invites us to Louis’s memories through bright sequences with pop songs that resemble a music video. When the the family talks about their usual road trip family vacations we are suddenly transported to images of this dysfunctional family’s memories, where the emptiness of the present seems lighter.
At the end it all explodes in a climatic confrontation where the camera is excruciatingly oppressive as the characters themselves and the lights over dramatically orange. Dolan has achieve to exasperate the audience with an exhausting dramatic experience. Ending with a not so convincing metaphor of a caged bird who breaks free only to die, the film, however, portraits beautifully the suffocating and claustrophobic tale of a family reunion.
Starttermin: 29. Dezember 2016
Braunschweig International Film Festival, Di. 08.11 19:15, C1 Cinema
Regie: Xavier Dolan
Mit: Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux
Produktion: MK2 Productions, Téléfilm Canada
Verleih: Weltkino Filmverleih