Distributor Wanted: IlluminationChris Chang makes the case for Illumination and its shaggy existential antihero
Written by Chris Chang
The main character in Pascale Breton’s hypnotic debut feature has an unusual, yet intuitively spot-on name, Ildutt. As played by Clet Beyer he’s a very French, very shaggy existential antihero: a nowhere man completely adrift, even when he’s in his own ramshackle bedroom at his family home, ensconced in the dreary and forever-damp landscape of Brittany. A part-time fisherman, he gets more than a touch of clinical melancholia when, for example, it comes time to reluctantly gut his piscine prey; and he’s fallen hard for Christina (Mélanie Leray), a visiting nurse who tends to his grandmother. (When he takes a shower, about 30 minutes into the film, it comes as a relief to all involved.) Ildutt is well aware of his own debilitating depression: he tries both psychoanalysis and a brief stint with a New Age cult led by a messianic figure intent upon removing all traces of identity from a comatose cadre of dim-witted supplicants.
Director Breton excels in the precise invocation of place—particularly the nexus at which land- and mindscape merge. The sea, the shore, and the creatures that traverse the boundaries between the two are, in this film, her operative agents. Small-town folk (in general) forever dream of life elsewhere; in this particular hamlet, they don’t even bother—they seem perfectly resigned to their peaceful oblivion. But even with its dead-end inertial feel there’s a bit of hope here and, in the film’s conclusion, a quiet catharsis.
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