||Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Alanté Kavaïté and in collaboration with Geoff Cox
||Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier
||6th May 2016
||French with English subtitles
We were given the chance to preview an interesting little film called Evolution, and Robert and Marc were happy to accept the invitation.
A curious French horror noted for the beautiful way it was shot, I found this film pleasingly sinister from the start. It follows the life of 10 year old Nicolas who appears to live in a small village on an island with his mother. Nothing odd there until you realise that all the other inhabitants of the village are also boys of the same age and living with their mothers too. No men, no fathers. Filmed on the stark lava based island of Lanzarote (although not necessarily based there), there is another world quality throughout. This is heightened by the appearance of the mothers – almost identical with similar clothing and hairstyles, and dark alien like eyes. They live stark lives in bland square houses, with the paint peeling off the walls and bedrooms that contain simply a bed, a desk and chair. Nicolas’ Mother (her name is never revealed) feeds Nicolas a daily diet of what looks like worms in mud and gives him medication of an untold illness. She then meets up with all of the other mothers at night while the boys are all asleep for a walk down to the moonlit coastline to indulge in….well, it’s hard to say what they indulge in! They appear to eat seaweed then writhe naked amongst the rocks clutching starfish.
Nicolas, having possibly seen a dead boy whilst swimming in the sea one day begins to question his existence, especially his illness and his trips to the only other building we see in the village – a tatty hospital with all the other boys. Nicolas likes to draw too, simple sketches in a notebook. One of the nurses in the hospital takes a liking to him because of this and helps him escape the island to free him from odd operations that appear to impregnate the boys before they die.
That is as clear as I can be about the story and it is hard to put into words the pace and the feeling of the film. Co-writer and director Lucile Hadzihalilovic studied art history and film in Paris and it shows. This is an artful film, with some truly breathtaking shots, most notably when swimming under the sea, and some very memorable scenes which did remind me of so much more. The whole thing could’ve been an episode of The X Files, I was especially reminded of this during the operation scenes on the boys. The mother’s behaviour reminded me of The Stepford Wives and the scenes between Nicolas and Stella the nurse conjured up images of The Innocence for me. There is so much intrigue to this film it is a joy to watch until the last quarter when you begin to realise that there may not be an explanation to what the hell was going on and, alas, that is what happens. It finishes and you step outside feeling let down and confused. Now, of course, art doesn’t have to explain itself and many a film has ruined itself by the reveal at the end but some sort of help here would have been nice!
So it is a film of 2 parts: It is quiet, brooding, a thing of grace to look at. The dialogue is sparse and so is the barely there music (the sea acts as a soundtrack for most of the film). The performances of all involved are tip top and the sense of the unknown and of menace are palpable throughout but, ultimately, because of the lack of explanation the whole thing comes to a shuddering and disappointing end and that is a rather major fault.
Perhaps there is something I have missed and it is all very obvious, and the starfish, prevalent throughout the film, or the marks on all of the mothers’ backs represent something that simply flew over my head and another watch might reveal more.
Would I watch it again? Yes! Would I buy it? Possibly, because I want to really enjoy this film and try and understand it but at the moment it is just a bit of an enigma.
There isn’t a lot I can add to Marc’s review as I agree with it whole-heartedly. When we left the screening room, neither of us were quite sure exactly what it was that we had just watched. There is no getting away from the fact that the cinematography in this film is superb and a joy to watch. However, sat alongside this beauty is a very intriguing story and, like Marc, I can’t help but feel a little let down by the lack of an explanation at the end.
If you are looking for a film to kill some time and not have to think too deeply about then this is not the one for you. The film, ultimately, is a challenging one but one that definitely deserves to be seen and I will certainly watch it again if I have a chance.