Sublime: Evolution

Evolution (2015)
Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Written by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Alante Kavaite, Geoff Cox
Produced by Nicolas Villarejo Farkas, Ángeles Hernández, David Matamoros, Julien Naveau, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon, Sebastián Álvarez, John Engel, Genevieve Lemal
Starring Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Marta Blanc, Mathieu Goldfeld, Nissim Renard
Distant from lush forests where the little ladies of Innocence were secluded, Hadzihalilovic’s eerily, elegantly elliptic second feature probes the seaboard secrets of an austere, insular village. Similarly severe women domiciled there with young boys in their care feed a vermicious stew and administer an inky medicine to their charges, who are subjected to strange experiments in a dank, nearby hospital where they’re eventually committed. One peculiarly inquisitive tad (Brebant) among them discovers another boy’s corpse in the reef of his island’s bight, then witnesses the surrogate mothers’ bizarre, nightly, coastal congress, realizing too late the danger his keepers pose. For its economy, dialogue is essentially effective from the mouths of the directress’s naturalistically convincing cast, and she wisely paces this quiet nightmare elicited from a juvenile trepidity with exquisite deliberation, introducing her setting’s seascapes and landscapes in panoramas, then focusing on swimming and swaying benthos, tenebrious revelations and subtly suggestive gestures that communicate perhaps more than any conversation. As in her debut, water’s here a literally and metaphorically transitional medium, almost so ubiquitous in the umbratile hospital where our protagonist is befriended by a sympathetic nurse (Duran) as on the strand where weltering breakers underscore with Jesús Díaz’s and Zacarías M. de la Riva’s perturbing, poignant music portent and peril. Hadzihalilovic’s superbly stygian, spartan fantasy proposes a societal and interspecific parasitism, and that mercy may not be exclusive to humanity.

Sublime: Innocence

Innocence (2004)
Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Written by Frank Wedekind, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Produced by Patrick Sobelman, Geoffrey Cox, Alain de la Mata, Paul Trijbits
Starring Zoé Auclair, Bérangère Haubruge, Lea Bridarolli, Hélène de Fougerolles, Marion Cotillard, Olga Peytavi-Müller
Foucault would surely have thrilled to anatomize the passive means by which the cloistered orphans of a remote boarding school are constrained by competition, selective obscurantism, dissemination of scuttlebutt and the accordance of authority in this moony reflection on aberrant childhood. Less an adaptation than a subtilized impression of Wedekind’s novel Mine-Haha, Hadzihalilovic’s analytic celebration of juvenile vim and natural splendor resonates with the unlikely realism resident in equivocacy: unlike too many of her peers, she treasures and masterfully exercises diegetic enigmas. Never pampered, little sylphs skylark within their orphanage’s forested, halcyon grounds, autonomous whenever unattended by their chief pedagogue (Fougerolles) or ballet instructor (Cotillard). Their ages are chromatically denoted by ribbons securing pigtails, and the eldest preteens among them are empowered the charge of their juniors – a representation that exhibits how maturation commences as a facile mimicry of adulthood. An aqueous significance exceeds rural and recreational contexts as an emblem of transience, incandescence and danger. Metaphors interspersed for the attentive gracefully reveal and prefigure implications abundant, as the callow whims, perturbations and aspirations of budding filles chastened and conformed by reliance and peer pressure vividly recall the wonder and impetuosity and impenitence of youth. By so acutely yet gently presenting childhood as a cowing landscape, festive yet fugitive playground and microcosm of adult exploitation, Hadzihalilovic’s crafted a picture as mature as her subjects aren’t with scrupulous framing and performances of allusive nuance. She’s as complete a filmmaker as any presently active.