September 21, 2017

Film Review: The Meteor by Francois Delisle @RainDance

Indie films are all about experimentation. A small budget imposes restrictions on filmmakers but it also means they don’t have financiers more interested in the bottom line than the vision. Producers aren’t trying to insert a bigger star, change the plot to include a car chase or tweak the dialogue.

This is especially lucky in the case of The Meteor by Francois Delisle. Even though it is a 85 minute film it has no traditional dialogue to tweak. Instead everything we hear is from the interior monologues of the characters.

The Meteor is definitely Delisle’s baby. He is the director, producer, writer and director of photography. He also plays Pierre, the main character whose actions affect everyone else. The finished film is unusual, as was its development. Delisle built the story from images sent to him by photographer Anouk Lessard.

This is a Canadian film in French that eschews the usual …scene-scene-scene… structure. Instead the viewer is given a procession of visual cues that may, or may not relate to what is being spoken. A mother thinks about her son who is in prison. A voiceover tells us her thoughts, but the camera shows only her elderly hand holding onto the car door as she is taken to visit him. At first this is unnerving, but soon it gives a continuity to the shots, allowing the viewer to sink into them as the wide-ranging narrative gives a constant stimulus.  This is no tightly plotted film where every sentence pushes the action forward. There’s very little action shown on screen. A bit of linen folding, a bit of sex, a bit of hair blowing in the breeze. Otherwise people are observed in solitude with little human interaction. The camera lingers on flowers, the sunset, a woman’s face half-distorted by a glass partition. This might sound visually dull, but the ongoing narration forces the viewer to imbue the images with meaning, making connections between the images and the script that will be different for each viewer.

The story that unfolds is of the aftereffects of the accidental drunk-driving killing of a young woman by Pierre. The painful effects of this on the lives of people around him is clear. His aged mother, who knows that she will not be alive when he is released from jail. His ex-wife, who struggles to move on. One character is a prison guard, whose voice is deliberately hard to distinguish from the prisoner. Although he is technically free we can muse on the similarities between the two men.  Both are trapped, Pierre by solid bars, the guard by other facets of life – his marriage and a daughter he doesn’t understand.

The Meteor is a different way of communicating. It uses cinematic techniques but is unlike most other films you will see. It is great that filmmakers are making interesting experiments such as this.

The Meteor screened as part of the Raindance Film Festival in London.

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