Alliance french film fest Spoiler debrief: From the Land of the Moon
Director Nicole Garcia takes audiences on one winding and eventful throwback to Provence in the 1940s in her latest offering From the Land of the Moon. Grounded by a committed and sincere performance by Marion Cotillard, the film is told in a flashback from the 1960s. Gabrielle and her husband (Alex Brendemühl) take a trip to Lyon to accompany their son on an important music competition. On their way to the conservatory, Gabrielle glances at a street sign and her memory is triggered to a dark time in her life.
We are then slowly taken back to Gabrielle's childhood where she is characterised as a single-minded and tortured soul. We discover early on that Gabrielle has but one ambition in life — to experience a grand folie a deux-style love affair. She channels her country-bumpkin frustrations into an obsession with her school teacher, and is then married off to the hard working, respectful, Spaniard, Jose. The marriage is contrived, and the ceremony is uneventful, to say the least.
That was the end of that chapter in her life, and the pair relocate to a nearby sea-side town. Life is boring for Gabrielle who has an insatiable desire to satisfy her curiosity. Gabrielle suffers from kidney stones and is sent to a clinic in the Swiss alps for treatment. Wouldn't it be nice to go to hospital in the Swiss alps? (By definition, this was a resort for rich people.)
It is here where the street sign in Lyon becomes relevant. She meets Andre Sauvage, a veteran of the war in Indochina, who suffers from a debilitating kidney infection. He is DDG (drop dead gorge — he is sick, he is isolated, and he plays the piano really, really well). Gabrielle becomes transfixed with the fellow and attends to his every need. Who wouldn't?
Gabrielle's evident sexual frustration and obvious disdain for Jose manifests itself into a kind of mental illness. It is at this point where we are tricked into thinking Gabrielle falls in love with Mr Sauvage and has a steamy sexual relationship with him, in the confines of the luxurious Swiss Alps resort.
She is then cured and returns to her home on the sea side. Gabrielle spends years writing to her love but does not hear back. This torments her and precludes her from living a normal life with her husband and her son, Marc. She remains vacant, and ostensibly tortured by Sauvage's failure to send for her. The months turn into years, and her son grows into a promising young pianist.
Garcia explores an exquisite array of emotional suffering through the characterisation of Gabrielle and more interestingly, Jose. The silent emotional torture that he endures is astonishing. We later discover, in a twist of events, Gabrielle mystifyingly lived a lie for some years. This far less interesting twist of events jeopardized my hopes for the film and I, too, endured some sentimental suffering. I expected the film to progress a little more but it was cut short as a typical French romantic melodrama.
From the Land of the Moon is showing at Luna Palace Cinemas from the March 16 to April 2, you can check out the full list of dates and locations and buy tickets here.
Check out the full list of films showing at the 2017 ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL below: