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Our Children (À perdre la raison) by Joachim Lafosse

January 1, 2013

À perdre la raison is the fifth film directed by Belgian director Joachim Lafosse, it debuted at Cannes where it competed in the Un Certain Regard section of the Festival and saw its female star Émilie Dequenne winning the Best Actress award of the aforementioned section; looking at the credits Audiard’s The Prophet comes to mind since we find Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup in the leading male roles and Thomas Bidegain is one of the three authors of the screenplay – Lafosse himself and Matthieu Reynaert complete the trio. Renewing the collaboration between Rahim and Arestrup is one of the many successes here, the film is so powerful and absorbing that from the first scene we forget about Malik and César and we are captured by Mounir and his friend and benefactor doctor André Pinget: Lafosse’s choice to begin the film from the end of the story has been very effective for multiple reasons, first of all because the film is based on a real-life story who made the news a few years ago in Belgium and worldwide too – so there was no need to keep the suspense, then because Émilie Dequenne’s tragic character in that scene diffuses so much energy and drama we are quickly drawn into the movie.

Just like in the previous works by Lafosse this is a film about human relationships and their possible turn into alienation, the original title – “how to lose your mind” approximately – gives a better idea of Lafosse’s intention, he was not interested into a precise re-telling of this well covered story, his focus is on how a person comes to commit such an heinous act: what forces drove her to do this? The Lehrmitte affair was only the spark for the screenplay: Murielle (Dequenne) is a schoolteacher, she is happily in love with Mounir (Rahim) and the young couple has a good friend in doctor Pinget (Arestrup), little by little we see this idyllic scenario taking disturbed and distorted routes (Murielle and Mounir decide to marry, the doctor gives the honeymoon as a gift, they invite him to go with them) and we soon realize that Murielle lacks the strength to retake control of the situation and to get out of her downward spiral.

Lafosse has made many brilliant directing choices in this film – the baroque music by Scarlatti and Caldara works beautifully – and the evolution of the relationship inside the trio is visually evoked by their different placing in the frame in the course of the film, at first we see three couples working on the same level (Mounir-Murielle, Mounir-Pinget, Pinget-Murielle), then the doctor comes between Mounir and Murielle (they are visually split by his presence), in the end Murielle is isolated in the shot by the common front played by Mounir and Pinget. It would be unfair to write about this film and not saying a word of the mighty performance by Émilie Dequenne: there is an amazing scene when she is driving home, alone in the car, listening to a song – Femmes, Je vous aime by Julien Clerc – and her nervous breakdown reaches the surface. This is a great film by one of the major filmmakers working today.

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