Watching "Les deux vies du serpent" was a personal choice, but the experience proved a major disappointment. I was attracted by the theme, the restless wandering of seventeen-year-old Pierre, estranged from his family. What also appealed to me in the first place was the presence of Vincent Rottiers, a young actor who had impressed me as Joseph, one the two revolted kids in Christophe Ruggia's 1992 "Les diables".
Well, to say the least, Hélier Cisterne's short (but lengthy) film did not live up to my expectations.
The first scene is intriguing and unsettling though: for a long time the camera follows Pierre, the main protagonist, riding his motorcycle on a road winding through a forest when, all of a sudden, the boy catches sight of a car on its roof. Obviously there has been a serious accident and Pierre gets off his bike, looks at the upturned car. Are the people inside dead? What is Pierre going to do? First frustration: we will never know. In the next shot, Pierre is at home, listening to loud music.
The next sequence shows Pierre with his grandmother who is busy peeling vegetables. They do not exchange any words. Next, Pierre leaves home for no apparent reason, not heeding the call of someone who appears to be his father. And that is all we will learn about the teenager's relationships with his parents and grandmother at home. From then on, we get the feeling that the film got off to a bad start. And what comes next only confirms this negative impression. Who are those friends he plays a dangerous game with? How does he survive diving with his hands tied? Why is he saved by a group of traveling stunt men who reject him afterward? And so on, and so on!
The story is filled with so many plot gaps and other ellipses, the meaningless moments drag on so long while the meaningful ones are just skipped, that the viewer - at least this viewer - soon loses any interest in what is happening. Granted, a filmmaker should avoid armchair psychology but I am afraid no psychology at all does not help! How can you relate to the characters if you are not given enough information to understand them?
This is the basic reason why I remained unconcerned about what happens to this boy astray, however well interpreted he is by Vincent Rottiers. And even if each part of this film is well filmed the sum of its parts does not make sense. To my mind, Hélier Cisterne should think of art a little less and put the viewer first instead. For the time being, in my eyes, he is in the image of his main character, a director astray.
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