- CANNES 2022: Lukas Dhont confirms the depths of his sensitivity and his gift for mise en scène via a splendid second feature harnessing a whirlwind of introverted emotions
"What’s happened between you two?" In his exploration of the pure hearts engaged in a great friendship which is making the complex transition from childhood to adolescence, Lukas Dhont responds brilliantly to the daunting challenge of confirming his talent - following the meteoric success of Girl [+see also:
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile] (awarded the Golden Camera on the Croisette in 2018, among other prizes) - by way of Close [+see also:
film profile], his second feature film which has been unveiled in competition at the 75th Cannes Film Festival (a milestone-first for the young Belgian filmmaker). It’s a “knighthood” earned by a work of striking clarity, whose rapid pace dashes off a difficult story focused on bodies but most importantly on faces, on intense looks and the deepest and most intense feelings which we sometimes try to contain, either through collective external pressure or an inability to express ourselves.
Playing and imagining the shape of the world, running as if through fields and forests, cutting through small countryside roads on bicycles, fighting for the fun of it, like mischievous puppies, staying at the one another’s houses, being treated like a second son by their respective families: at 13 years of age, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustave De Waele) are inseparable friends, their hearts beating as one in their wholly innocent love, even if feelings which don’t need explaining are clearly a feature, too. But this innocence in full summer bloom is shattered as soon as the new school year starts. The natural and instinctive physical closeness between the two boys (one’s head on the other’s shoulder or one of them acting as a cushion for the other who’s stretched out on the grass) is immediately picked up on in school ("are you two together? You seem close. It shows. Are you a couple? Maybe you just don’t realise it yet"), if not stigmatised ("queer") in the commotion and hustle and bustle of the playground. Troubled by what other people might think, sensitive Léo gradually distances himself from Rémi, cosying up with the more virile boys and their football chat, and even taking up ice hockey, hidden behind the bars of his helmet. But Léo secretly feels guilty for this betrayal, which has a growing impact on Rémi…
Filmed in a highly organic style which deftly explores every little movement on Eden Dambrine’s subtle yet highly expressive features, Close tells a poignant tale of one boy’s attempt to cut off a part of himself in the turmoil of finding his identity, at an age where our desire to be like others is incredibly powerful, to the point we’d supress our true personalities and willingly trap ourselves in a vicious circle with painful repercussions for those we love and for ourselves. All this until we reach breaking point, because turning our backs on what’s good for us isn’t without its consequences.
It’s into this initiatory drama that Lukas Dhont plunges head-first, providing his two young protagonists (wonderfully supported by their adult colleagues, especially their mothers played by the remarkable Émilie Dequenne and Léa Drucker) with all the love of a filmmaker gifted with incredible mise en scène skills, going from very hard-hitting to infinite sweetness, and from top speed to attentive patience in order to tease out the minute undulations of these souls which can be read on their bodies or in gestures when verbal communication proves impossible.
Covering four seasons through the (visually spectacular) mirror of family work in fields of flowers and among the natural elements (ranging from an abundance of colours through to snow, by way of mud and torrential rain, etc.), Close proves a wonderful cinematographic balancing act, both incisive and thought-provoking, which combines realism, lyricism and melodrama with touching smoothness and without a hint of excess.
(Translated from French)
Photogallery 26/05/2022: Cannes 2022 - Close
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