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Simon de La Brosse
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Simply ,"la classe de neige" is Claude Miller's best work since "la meilleure façon de marcher" (1975,his debut).These works comprise intriguing similarities: both take place in a children community.The first movie,which featured the excellent Patrick Bouchitey and Patrick Dewaere,focused on two camp counselors ,and the dark side of their minds .Bouchitey's devils only woke up at night ,when he dressed up as a woman.His relationship with Dewaere was frighteningly intense and culminated in a violent scene in which the transvestite forced his pal to dance.Miller's sophomore effort "dites-lui que je l'aime" tackled deviancy again but he cheapened Patricia Highsmith's first-class thriller.Since,Miller made quite entertaining works ("garde à vue" which was remade as "under suspicion" ),endearing ones ("l'effrontée") ,and also pretentious ones ("mortelle randonnée" which was remade too).But he was never again able to equal his sensational first work,which seems as strong as it was a quarter of century ago.
But in 1998,he really outdid himself,and gave a stunning work ,the first to be on a par with "la meilleure façon de marcher".Should you give another title to "la classe de neige'" ,it could be " cries and whispers" .The title is incredibly trite "skiing with the school" and reveals none of the horrors the movie depicts.
Nicolas is a perturbed child probably because he's poisoned with protection by an omnipresent father;but it's not that much simple: the scene at the swimming pool shows another side of this monstrous daddy.The parents ' gathering before the class leaves for the mountains is realist to the core:I organized myself a lot of "classes de neige" and I can say I've met a lot of parents who fret about their dear little ones .Sometimes they refuse to sever the umbilical cord and the child -most of the time very disappointed- stays home.
Whispers:Nicolas lives in his own world where his demons never leaves him alone.His only moments of peace occur when he confides to his teacher,Miss Grimm (what a name!)-see how he refuses to talk to his mother on the phone -,or to the young man to whom he says :"when you think too hard about something,does IT happen"?,scary ,isn't it?).He finds a pal but the secrets he exchanges with him are so morbid and so terrifying it cannot bring him any help.Most of the time,the adults whisper behind closed doors,the gendarmes outside the bus,the teachers in their office.
Cries:we never see Nicolas scream, or even cry.His mind creates monsters ,at night when his nightmares come to visit him -these scenes make the audience think of an horror movie,which Claude Miller's work is not.He managed to blend dream and reality in such a subtle way that it's sometimes hard to tell them apart;take the central scene which climaxes the movie:Nicholas is out in the cold ,the snow's falling,and he cannot open the house's door.Then begins a series of dreams which show a child's fear of dying as never before.In the daylight,terrors do not fade away:Nicolas turns the TV screen into a mirror of his own horrible visions-this is not as strong as the nightmares scenes ,though,since this device has been used before-.
Claude Miller does not do what the audience expects:a Hollywoodian treatment would have solved the problems ,with a family happy again and plenty of violins in the background.There's an extremely moving scene :on the highway,in the restaurant ,the boy sees a young mom change her baby's diaper,then the proud couple leaves the place,as Nicolas' s eyes catch what happiness may look like.The ending will leave you completely numb:you are in front of a huge hole ,you do not know exactly what happened .It's perhaps even worse than you think it is.
A black fairy tale revisited by Bruno Bettelheim,a psychological drama, a thriller,"la classe de neige" is all this and so much more.
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