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BERLIN 2019 Generation Kplus

Review: Daniel


- BERLIN 2019: Marine Atlan directs a delicate, charming and refreshing film about an anxious schoolboy’s unexpected romantic feelings

Review: Daniel
Théo Polgar in Daniel

Bread and butter dunked in a bowl of hot chocolate, gloves drying on the radiator, the latest headlines on the radio at breakfast (Brexit, financial facts and figures, the cold and snow, with an orange alert issued for the South, in particular): the daily life of a ten-year-old schoolboy involves various almost unavoidable events, such as pinching sweets with friends at the local bakery and sneakily passing notes around the classroom, all of which is part and parcel of the low-level machoism often at play among young schoolboys of this age ("should we do the tango together? I don’t really want to pair up with a girl with stinky armpits"). Chalk triangles on the blackboard, Victor Hugo poems read aloud, scribbles in notebooks and in the playground, girls acting out imaginary weddings and boys playing ball games: with Daniel [+see also:
film profile
, a one-hour-long film screened in the Generation Kplus programme at the 69th Berlinale, Marine Atlan modestly delves into a time that marks the end of childhood with perfect accuracy, a time during which something out of the ordinary makes a very strong impression on one young boy in particular, allowing a fear of the unknown and a desire to explore it to blossom into exhilarating new feelings.

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"Concentration, Calm, Silence, Discipline and Assistance": a confinement exercise is planned after the school suffers a break-in, feeding the students' worried and excited conversations ("what would scare you the most?"). Suffering from a nosebleed, a reserved Daniel (Theo Polgar) makes a detour to the nurse’s office, only to stumble onto the snowy and deserted playground. Frightened by a door that seems to slam open all on its own, he hides in the maintenance room and from there, through a crack overlooking the cloakroom, he sees Marthe (Madeleine Follacci) in her knickers, with her long hair trailing down her bare back. Both fascinated and intimidated by this image, Daniel is caught off guard by the girl, who heads off to the village hall in her beautiful white dress to partake in a dress rehearsal run by one of the teachers (Aurélien Gabrielli). Dances and songs (Le temps est assassin by Véronique Sansona and Sur mon cou by Jean Genêt) soon follow, and Daniel, who then joins the cast, is left to digest the repercussions of the strange feelings that his unexpected encounter with Marthe have triggered...

A touching tale about the uncertainties of childhood, Daniel injects poetry into realism and employs simple looks and small gestures to capture the strength of the emotions that often manifest in the unsure minds of young adults. The film delicately makes use of its humble score, which is perfectly in line with the film’s characters, skilfully taking possession of the school space and sound, all of which is testament to the director’s sensitivity. Her future career is definitely one to watch.

Daniel produced and is being sold internationally by bathysphere.

(Translated from French)

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