L’plot unfolds in a village in the French Alps, with a kitsch atmosphere. Joanne, ex-miss Rhône-Alpes, is married to Jimmy and mother of little Vicky. Everything seemed to be going well in the daily life of this aquagym teacher until the arrival of Julia, the sister of her husband Jimmy.
This does not seem welcome, sparking gossip and violent reactions from the inhabitants of the village. The young Vicky, endowed with a talent for recognizing smells, for creating magical mixtures, navigates in the memories of her mother, which makes it possible to understand why so much violence and repressed love reign between her parents, her aunt and Joanne’s best friend. Léa Mysius signs a mysterious film, playing with the limits of reality, which it is a question of apprehending by the senses by going against a rational approach to the image.
The sensory character of this film is central. First, the sense of smell is summoned: at the heart of the film, it concentrates all the mysteries. Vicky recognizes, sorts, describes the smells she keeps in jars. These intriguing mixtures, with magical properties, change reality and the perception of the characters. The view is also summoned, rather to be deformed through games of reflections and numerous photographs that tell the life of the characters. Taste brings the characters together, including Julia and Joanne, through the preparation of a slimy-looking octopus. Finally, hearing is treated magnificently: the music makes sense with the scenes: ” It should have be me » resounds when Jimmy finds his former lover, and a karaoke on « Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonny Tyler, links the love between Joanne and Julia. The sounds are superimposed on multiple occasions, mixing the words of the television with those of the characters to better force the viewer to listen, to become almost physically involved in the film.
The natural elements are also all treated. The fire, inherent in the plot, is present from the first image. The earth, is felt and felt by the young Vicky. The water in which Joanne bathes every day allows her to experience the limits of her own body. The air, finally, which strikes hair and faces on various occasions, and which is magnificently recalled by the song ” Cuatro Vientos by Danit, with which the film ends.
In this sense, the film works on the human being in a primitive way, according to an essential and sensory relationship to others and to the world, with all that is complex. The senses and the elements link the characters, as when the skin to skin between Vicky, Joanne and Julia brings the latter back to life in hypothermia. The porosity of the body to the world and to others is apprehended in an erotic and maternal way.
Five devils with tied relationships
” Did you love me before I existed? Vicky asks her mother when they are curled up against Julia’s cold body. An innocuous, childish question, which nevertheless makes sense with regard to the links between the five characters. Indeed, the spectator quickly understands the complexity of the romantic relationships linking Jimmy, Joanne, Nadine and Julia. Thus, when Nadine learns that Joanne hid Julia’s return from her, she loses her temper, reproaches her for stealing Jimmy, the man of her life. The first four devils appear, all driven by passion, anger and resentment…
Vicky is not excluded from all this, on the contrary. First, it is through his travels in time that the viewer learns more about the other characters. His anger and then his love for Julia, endowed with a gift that seems similar to his, is undeniable and makes him a character close to others.
Beyond the social bond, it is a visceral bond that binds the characters. It is not possible to fight against hate or against love, whether the bond is family or love. We are faced with a knot of complex relationships which is not meant to be unravelled. This is presented as is to the viewers. The mystery persists, being only partially elucidated.
Everything is done so that the viewer doubts the reliability of the characters and their perceptions. The mystery begins when Vicky reveals her gift for smells to her mother. This one then worries, she is afraid that she is “crazy”. The young girl creates a fragrant mixture from a product found in her aunt’s toilet bag. Smelling her magic potion, she faints and is transported to the past where she contemplates her parents, as well as Julia and Nadine, young. Only Julia then manages to see the little girl, like an apparition from the future. We learn during the plot that she is an alcoholic, but also that she would suffer from a mental illness that would alter her consciousness. Pathology, hallucinations, madness and alcohol are all means used to lead the viewer into doubt. Are these characters stricken with madness in a normal world, or are they dealing with supernatural events? It is all the mechanics of the fantastic that is used here to blur the boundary between reality and the imaginary.
The viewer, caught up in the mystery, loses the thread and the emotion if he tries to rationalize what is happening before his eyes. This is a film to be embraced with the senses, paying attention to music, descriptions of smells, images of skin, hair, food…
Léa Mysius shows the pleasant character of a mystery that lasts, whose magic is never dissolved in favor of a sensible solution. It is thus necessary to accept losing oneself, to accept an entirely different approach, by contemplating the mechanisms of human relations as strong as they are inexplicable.
Lea Mysius, The Five Devils2022. With Adele Exarchopoulos, Daphne Patakia, Moustapha Mbengue, Sally Dramé, Swala Emati. The movie was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, in the Directors’ Fortnight category. In theaters since August 31, 2022.