Six months after losing their five years old daughter in a fire in the barn of their little farm, Jean and his wife Laure are facing troubles in their relationship and financial problems. ...
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Six months after losing their five years old daughter in a fire in the barn of their little farm, Jean and his wife Laure are facing troubles in their relationship and financial problems. Laure grieves the loss of their daughter and blames herself for her absence and Jean for his negligence for the fire; Jean is trying to rise from the ashes and somehow rebuild his life; and the insurance company refuses to pay the prize for the accident. Jean asks for a job in a mill to a friend to make money and support the psychiatric treatment of Laure. In his new job, he meets and becomes friend of the Kosovo refugee's siblings Kastriot and Labinota, while the Laure's sister Valérie separates them. Jean feels the passion of love and sense of life in his relationship with Labinota, who had her life destroyed with the war. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The title of this film isn't very catchy, even in the original French, but it gives fair warning of what's to come: a motion picture in which much is to be endured and little is to be enjoyed. Tout un hiver is a glimpse at cross-cultural encounters that might put a Swiss mountain farm couple's hardship into perspective when the husband gets to know some refugees from Kosovo who've suffered much greater horrors. Jean (Aurélian Recoing) and his wife Laure (Marie Matheron) have lost most of their livestock in a fire that killed their five-year-old daughter. Laure has lost her mind as a result and Jean puts her into a psychiatric clinic, a step that Laure's possessive sister Valérie (Nathalie Boulin) seems to ill approve of.
Jean must get work at a steel mill to pay debts and that is where he meets the Kosovar refugees working there, including Kastriot (Blerim Gjoci) and his sister Labinota (Gabriela Muskala). Jean is drawn to Labinota, perhaps because she seems as grief-ridden and bereft as he does. Her husband disappeared six years ago when soldiers murdered a whole community. He may have been killed, or he may have escaped, but she is still waiting. Kastriot is friendly to Jean and invites him to Kosovar social gatherings; he hides his own traumas but at times has a short fuse. The Kosovars have seen their families raped, their throats cut, their houses burned to the ground.
The harsh but spectacular Jura mountain landscapes are a big player in this film. Cinematographer Witold Pióciennik's cinematography is impeccable and sometimes uniquely lovely. His close-ups of the principals spare us nothing---there's no escape from the fact that Recoing's and Gjoci's faces are genuinely expressive but the two ladies are overplaying their melodramatic roles, Matheron far too exaggeratedly nutty, and Muskala too pathetic and sweet.
Jean considers selling everything and moving somewhere else: a new start. Laure, who is perhaps beginning to become coherent again, is not enthusiastic. But like the rest of the story, this issue is something we keep going back and forth on without any resolution.
There's heavy-handed symbolism about crows against the snow, fire forbidden in the farm and big fire at the steel mill. Where is the Polish-born and trained Swiss-adopted director Zglinski going with all this? The editing is relentlessly arc-less: when we think Laure may be better we glimpse her engaging a a long mad scream of pain. Though Laure comes out of the clinic, and Jean has some warm times with the quietly accepting and ultimately cheerful Labinota, there's no sense of resolution; no sense indeed that we've gotten anywhere. Zglinski is obviously interested in the contrast between the warm Kosovars (parallel to the warmer and wilder Poles he knows from his own experience) and the more stoical and shut-down Swiss. But that's just a given, not a source of any revelations. As if the parents' terrible grief weren't enough, everything else seems exaggerated. The Kosovars are a little too celebratory and unpredictable. The insurance assessor is a dry, mincing creep out of Dickens. The possessive sister almost seems to have a lesbian attachment to Laure. The steel mill camaraderie has a consistently menacing and nasty air about it. One leaves with a sodden feel of unmitigated grimness.
Seen at the SFIFF April 2006.
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