Nicely modulated mood piece, if not quite as disturbing as the book
Screenplay coauthored by Miller and Emmanuel Carrière from the latter's successful and disquieting little mystery-thriller novel about an overprotected, highly sensitive boy whose dreams and fantasies of danger while on a stay in the mountains with his school may or may not presage real events.
Such a movie has plusses and minuses: it allows the filmmakers to bring the feverish visions of young Nicolas (Clément ven den Bergh) to vivid life, but it somewhat undermines the sense of uncertainty about what is real or imagined that makes the book effective.
The boy is stronger than I imagined him reading the story. Let's say that the actor puts on a face of shyness and gloom but I don't quite believe it. Still, as a viewer commented on the French website Allociné, "I feel this film does not betray the book." Apparently not shown widely or at all in the US. Beautifully done with excellent restraint, true to the book's muted style, a minor triumph for the underwhelming Miller, whose last admired film was The Little Thief/La petite voleuse with Charlotte Gainsbourg in 1988. Tied for Jury Prize at Cannes, nominated for Golden Palm.
I wanted to see this because I'd read the book. Easy French. This brought it all back, but wasn't quite as disturbing because you know the fantasies are fantasies, every time. In the book it's from the boy's point of view and you aren't always so sure. Lots of closeups of ven den Bergh's face don't make us see entirely through his eyes. It's all more externalized. Still, a nicely modulated mood piece, an excellent evocation of the darker side of childhood imagination. It's not so easy to be a kid. We forget that sometimes.
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