Our most cinephilic francophiles head to the 2016 Melbourne French Film Festival. These are their reviews.
We continue our Melbourne French Film Festival Review Series with our Editor, Gemma, and her review of Denis Dercourt’s 2015 film En Equilibre (In Harmony).
Over the last few years, French cinema has excelled in providing complex and empowering representations of disability. Films that take a nuanced and progressive approach to portrayals of the differently-abled range from Julian Schnabel’s 2007 Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly), which depicts Jean-Dominique Bauby’s real-life experience with Locked-In Syndrome, to Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s softer social comedy Intouchables (2011, also based on a true story), featuring a quadriplegic co-protagonist. Jacques Audiard’s striking 2012 De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone) explores the grief of amputation, as well as the many possibilities for creativity, happiness and sexuality that remain open to the protagonist Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) afterwards. Jean-Pierre Améris’ 2014 Marie Heurtin (Marie’s Story) explores sensory disability in compassionate ways. Even the 2001 fairytale romance Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) offers a refreshing perspective on disability, neither glossing over nor overly emphasising actor Jamel Debbouze’s real-life handicap.
The latest addition to this group of films is Denis Dercourt’s 2015 En Equilibre, or In Harmony.En Equilibre focusses on a talented equestrian stunt double, Marc (Albert Dupontel), who is paralysed from the waist down in a disastrous film stunt. Rather than lingering on the accident or its immediate aftermath, the film begins as he meets his liaison at his insurance company, Florence (the ever-wonderful Cécile de France). As Florence’s bosses pressure her into making Marc settle for a paltry sum, she is forced to confront her own priorities as a person, rather than an employee.
Both Dupontel and De France deliver heartfelt performances in this delicate film, which handles its dark material with care and allows plenty of light to shine through. What strikes the viewer upon watching is the film’s preoccupation with the beauty of movement: of horses, cars, bodies and (without giving too much away) fingers dancing across piano keys. There are many admirable elements in En Equilibre. Importantly, the film offers its differently-abled protagonist agency, sexuality and the possibility of a meaningful future. But one of En Equilibre’s finest points is that it does not deny its paralysed character this beauty of movement, but instead makes it accessible to him in new and unexpected ways.
This post first appeared on the blog of the film production company, NMNC Films.
Catch En Equilibre at the festival here.
We thank the Alliance Française Melbourne French Film Festival 2016 for the advanced media screening of En Equilibre. Book tickets to the AFFFF, and Gemma’s Melbourne Festival Q&A following the Arnaud Desplechin film Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse, here.
By Gemma King.