Monday, 4 February 2008

"L'Enfant de la Haute Mer" Laëtitia Gabrielli, Pierre Marteel, Mathieu Renoux and Max Tourret

L'Enfant de la Haute Mer is a ghostly story about a young girl who loses her father to the high seas and through the strength of her imagination manages to bring his boat back home. Well, that is one explanation of "The child of the high seas" a six minute movie based on the original Jules Supervielle novella from 1931. Today's featured movie was made in 2000 by four students from the Supinfocom (School for Infography and Multimedia in Valenciennes) - Laetitia Gabrielli, Pierre Marteel, Mathieu Renoux and Max Tourret with music by René Aubry. In fact the plot is not quite that of the original source. The directors focus on the dream-like quality of window shutters opening in a totally empty village save for a young girl. All the material of a surreal dream is here, washing or paper hanging on a line becomes a ship that seems lost at sea in a storm, until the vast hulk of the boat glides silently along the main street. In one scene the broom held by the girl slides ominously beneath the waters. There is a pleasing water-coloured quality to the painting and everything is rather pale and washed out too, in keeping with a movie about a haunted village. Various interpretations are possible here. Is the girl a ghost? Is her father on the ship and dreaming of her? There is an uploaded version on YouTube mistakenly attributed to a 1985 film of the same name by director Patrick Deniau - L'Enfant de la Haute Mer. In one internet forum Patrick seems rather peeved that his version has been mistaken for the "pale" attempt of the students. I've not seen the original movie so can't comment. The original story by Supervielle has a sailor dreaming of his little daughter, who has disappeared at the age of 12, during one of his trips. His dreams transport him to floating city where he sees this infant of the high seas. It is couched in rather vague terms: "À l'approche d'un navire, avant même qu'il fût perceptible à l'horizon, l'enfant était prise d'un grand sommeil, et le village disparaissait, complètement sous les flots." What the grand sleep is I have no idea. But it has given an imaginative spur to the students and a hunt for a translated version of the book for me. In my youth I used to watch interminable movies by Jean-Luc Godard in the belief they were good for me and again in days gone by when I taught English A Level I used to point to the allusive or ambiguous qualities of a text if I didn't have a clue what was happening! L'Enfant de la Haute Mer is ambiguous but entrancing and so French.

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