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BRIFF 2021

Review: Lucie Loses Her Horse


- Claude Schmitz offers a dreamlike tale, an ode to theatre life, and a loose wandering through the psyche of an actress at the dawn of a new role

Review: Lucie Loses Her Horse
Lucie Debay in Lucie Loses Her Horse

Noticed for medium-length films with a particular style (Rien sauf l’été, Braquer Poitiers, winner of the Jean Vigo prize in 2019), Claude Schmitz makes the leap to feature films with Lucie Loses Her Horse [+see also:
interview: Claude Schmitz
film profile
, playing in the National Competition of the Brussels International Film Festival, a hybrid cinematic object, a declination of a theatrical work.

Just as she is about to say goodbye to her very young daughter to go on tour, Lucie (Lucie Debay) asks herself questions about her job as an actress, the place it takes in her life as a wife and a mother. Her mind escapes into a dreamlike fugue which gives her a new sense of perspective on her obligations, and makes her go through the looking glass, backstage at the theatre, this magical place that is always living, even when no show is on. 

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Thrown into the world of dreams, Lucie is a knight. She rides her horse in the plaines, when suddenly, her horse disappears. Thus begins a period of wandering during which she will cross paths with two other female knights, themselves also looking for their horses. 

At the end of their path is a strange scene, the stage of a theatre, on which we find our three actresses, asleep (due to their confinement, we may assume), just as they were performing King Lear. That they would arrive at Shakespeare is no coincidence. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep," he wrote in The Tempest.

"I was about to go to work, let’s not lose the thread," Lucie repeats to herself. And so, the story meanders to the rhythm of the protagonists’ free associations of ideas and her encounters. On the plaines, she meets female knights who respond to her thirst for independence and adventure. Backstage at the theatre, she talks to the director, the stage manager, the young actor, in a joyful mise en abîme

The film is experienced like a dream, a profound wandering where it is good to be lost alongside Lucie, an actress in crisis, herself looking for her horse… and for meaning. Yet ultimately, isn’t meaning found in the quest itself? And can we truly live without telling ourselves some stories? 

Lucie Loses Her Horse is rooted in a double context, that of the cinematic works of Claude Schmitz, and that of the closing of theatres. Just as he was in rehearsals for his new play, Un Royaume, itself a hybrid work mixing together theatre performance and video, the threat of the lockdown reared its head. Who know if, when and how theatres will open again? 

In the end, Un Royaume is presented at the Théâtre de Liège from 14 to 18 October, but the tour is cancelled. The project is now adapted into a cinematic form with this atypical feature film, which paints the portrait of its protagonist just as it questions her practice. 

We in fact find here glimpses of reality of the kind that we already felt in the medium-length works of the director. Lucie is played and created by actress Lucie Debay, and it is her own experience she is sharing, her daughter, her grandmother, her life and, no doubt, her questions. This basis in reality does not prevent the film from delightfully losing its way in various directions. Lucie questions her status and her job, both in combat and in wandering. The costume, which constitutes cross-dressing, allows one to take a step back, and to let one’s thoughts and imagination run free.

Lucie Loses Her Horse is produced by the Théâtre de Liège (Belgium), where the original play was performed, and Les Films de l’autre cougar in France, with the support of the RTBF.

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(Translated from French)

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