Tuesday, April 04, 2006

L'enfant (The Child) ... a very French film

Bruno is in his early twenties, and gets through life fencing stolen goods, often exploiting school kids as his speedy accomplices. The film L'enfant picks up at a point in his life where he's just become the father of Sonia's new baby son, Jimmy.

She's disappointed that Bruno didn't come to see her in hospital. He is much more interested in his next sting than seeing the face of his beautiful son. Oh, and while she's been in, he's sublet her flat, leaving mother, father and mother are temporarily homeless. So the new nuclear family spend their first night apart, checked into a segregated hostel. Bruno sacrifices sleep for some more wheeler-dealing, before blowing the proceeds on a pram and a day's hire of a convertible car to take them all back to the flat.

Sonia and Bruno's relationship is initially shown as more physical than emotional: full of playground behaviour, chasing, and biting. What does she see in him?

Cash in hand is the way Bruno measures his manhood. While taking Jimmy for a walk (push) in the park, he decides to sell the baby to adoption dealers. The audience watch in muttering disbelief as Bruno goes ahead and trades Jimmy for €5000, without any consultation with Sonia (who is queuing up at a post office).

Sonia passes out when Bruno casually explains that he sold Jimmy and shows off the wad of notes, and tells her that they can have other kids. In hospital she tells the authorities what has gone on, while Bruno sets off to reclaim his child.

The rest of the film follows Bruno as he attempts to recover from his loosing position. Though he continues to be a lot more cut up about loosing Sonia than little Jimmy.

The film ends with Bruno starting to turn the corner away from childhood (he is l'enfant, not Jimmy) and heading into adulthood. In an attempt to evade capture, his young accomplice nearly drowns while hiding in the river. Bruno chooses to pull him to safety, tries to warm him up, but then gets separated. And in a decisive step towards accepting responsible for his actions, Bruno gives himself up to the police to save the lad.

Having paid money to see the film, it feels like the film ends on an unsatisfactorily note. Bruno and Sonia crying all over each other in the prison visiting room. Black screen. Credits roll up in silence. Arghh.

So how French is L'enfant? If you can persuade yourself to sit through the subtitles - you can read my earlier musings on Subtitled films: love or loathe them? - what can you expect?

  • You'll notice that the usual musical score has been replaced with cues taken from everyday life. About the half the film is set against the roar of traffic, and involves actors crossing busy roads.
  • It's a moral tale, but leaves the audience to make all the judgements about which behaviours and motives are good or bad.
  • The ending is totally unresolved. Happy endings with all the loose ends tied up are the stuff of Hollywood, and not very French. So don't expect Bruno to get his just comeuppance. (Why doesn't Sonia hire a hit man and rid herself of this nuisance for ever?)
  • Expect to notice that little Jimmy's face is often covered up, and when he is visible, his faces changes between shots. (The credits reveal the names of all 21 babies that were played his role!)
  • And the car chase is less spectacular than most action films you'll have seen & something to do with the moped involved!
  • And finally, don't expect to smile during the film- I don't think there is a single happy moment in the film.

You can find the cinema listings on Renoir Cinema's website. It's easier to find than the cinema itself, which is surrounded by scaffolding and you can just make out the digger in the snap.

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