Mrs. Hyde, the glacial coldness of a burning woman
by Muriel Del Don
- LOCARNO 2017: The latest feature-length film by French director Serge Bozon, presented at the International Competition, features the incredible Isabelle Huppert
French director, Serge Bozon, is well acquainted with Locarno Film Festival, where he presented one of his first films, the amazing Mods, in 2002. He returns this year with his latest feature-length film, Mrs. Hyde [+see also:
interview: Serge Bozon
film profile], the surreal portrait of a teacher who, in spite of everything, still believes in the power of education.
Mrs. Géquil (the amazing Isabelle Huppert, elegant, intense and wonderfully ambiguous) is an eccentric and reserved teacher on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Her colleagues and students don't respect her, yet her presence in the classroom and the high school itself is nothing short of essential. During a violent thunderstorm Mrs. Géquil is struck by lightning and loses her senses. Upon coming to something in her has changed, but what? Has her dark side (Mrs. Hyde) suddenly awakened? Will she be able to tame this new and incredible energy? Bozon draws from Robert Louis Stevenson's novel with his new film, but this time it's a woman embodying both good and evil, submission and self-affermation. Mrs. Hyde is a female character who goes beyond the cliché of the introspective, fragile and insecure teacher. Of course, Mrs. Géquil, particularly at the beginning of the film, doesn't necessarily fit the stereotype of a heroine ready to take over the world, but her apparent submission to events (and to the students, except in the case of Malik, wonderfully acted by the young Adda Senani) leads to a grand transformation. Hers is not a bloody personal revenge like one of Tarantino's heroines, but rather a conscious understanding of what brings her to life.
Entering into Bozon's universe involves "laisser prise" with regard to the reality around us, an acceptance of absurdity and inexperience under the disguise of something sleek, elegant and retro. It's essentially pointless to try to "understand" Bozon, what matters here is letting go and savouring the aesthetic sophistication and array of characters: elegant, irreverent and wonderfully absurd. Mrs. Hyde, played by the silvery and incandescent Isabelle Huppert and the headteacher played by the ever-surprising Romain Duris, are two perfect examples of the characters who populate Bozon's universe: rich in ambiguity and contradictions, good at heart but with a disturbing dark side. Bozon didn't intend to make a film about education, instead, this film is about the often contradictory relationship, and the love and hate that binds professors and students together. How do you feed the flame of knowledge? How do you get students to truly understand? The society in which the high school students live and Mrs. Hyde teaches is not idyllic by any means: the suburban buildings devour decor, like concrete monsters ready to launch an attack, sending them to their sadly pre-determined fate. In contrast, the life of the eccentric professor seems unchanged, a sort of oasis – whether it’s real of false is to be determined – in such a chaotic environment. Bozon's characters hide behind masks, internalising their emotions. This apparent detachment from the real world around them makes them incredibly intriguing and mysterious, like disjointed puppets that the director enjoys playing with. The scenes in which music takes hold of the characters bodies are incredible: the hip hop version of Bozon, a sort of unlikely mix of NTM and new wave minimalism. Mrs. Hyde takes us far away into a world where the calm turns into a miraculous storm.
(Translated from Italian)
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