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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Silence de la mère

by By J. R.

A Mother’s Silence - a Film Review

Translated by Monika

Translated Tuesday 24 January 2006, by Monika Navarro

Occasionally a film grabs you and doesn’t let you go. This was the case with "De l’histoire ancienne" (’Ancient history’), Orso Milet’s first full-length movie, about family, repression and mourning.

Occasionally a film grabs you and doesn’t let you go. This was the case with "De l’histoire ancienne" (’Ancient history’), Orso Milet’s first full-length movie, about family, repression and mourning. This time the impression the film makes is even stronger. Maybe because Dominique Lienhard, a patents engineer at the European Patent Office who lives in Munich and whose only short film I didn’t know, was totally unspoiled by any recommendations, any festivals it had been submitted to or any cinematic circles - as far as I was unaware.
Maybe it is because I discovered this film under the most unlikely circumstances, at a public world premiere on the tropical usland of Réunion, in an American-style multiplex cinema, lost in a landscape surrounded by palm trees facing the sun and the sea. The film’s soundtrack is provided by Bach’s Passion to Christ, and the setting is by the icy privacy of the backlands of Alsace in winter.(müetter= mother in Alsatian).
Maybe it is because the film-maker owes a lot to Ozu and Dreyer. In this film, the new, young French cinema that vindicates transcendentalism’s contribution meets Bresson.
Or maybe it is simply because Milet’s first full-length movie, that tells the story of Stéphane (Stanislas Mehrar), an ambitious thirty-year-old biochemist on whom everything smiles, is suddenly called to his dying grandmother’s side.
This is a well-structured movie in its evident coherence, its steady style, its brilliant complicity with the actors, and in the wise choice of the admirable direction -as if it were the Last Supper. This is a true "Mise-en-Cène!" (1,2)
A single element more overtly materialistic apprehension of the world and we would be at Straub’s. An extremely evocative social context and Bruno Dumont from his first two films would be there on the screen in front of us.
But why turn Dominique Lienhard into an insect stuck in the spider’s web of references? His film is here, it exists and it must be watched.
Watch out though, this is a major work. But it’s also an major work that is intimate, timeless, fragile, full of content, that demands more than it gives.
It’s certainly worth seeing it then, and as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t end up forgotten under the ordinary nights out vacuous cinema.
Worth seeing.
Worth seeing.
Worth seeing.
J. R.

Translator’s note:
(1)“Mise-en-scène - usually translated as simply directing a film - refers to almost everything that goes into the composition of the shot, including the composition itself: framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and general visual environment, even sound as it helps elaborate the composition (Robert Kolker, Film Form and Culture)
(2) In French, Cène is the Last Supper


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