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Fauve, written and directed by Jeremy Comte, is a short film set in a surface mine and follows two boys that sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer. The film depicts the carefree adventures of the boys, which sooner than expected escalate into a life-threatening situation beyond their control.
The idea for this live-action short film came from Comte's recurring nightmares when he was a child. He stated: "about four years ago, I was running on a small muddy road under a light rain in the countryside and it all came back to me. I knew at this moment I had to make a film out of these memories, exploring childhood in a raw and authentic way". The short film sets out to do just that and achieves it brilliantly. The fact that the story was ultimately inspired by a dream explains the strong lyricism and poetry that is now associated with Comte's style. The dialogue is carefully constructed and although at times it feels unreal to be a conversation between two kids, it maintains the narrative's overall poetic element.
However, despite the idea originally being an abstract form, the depiction of childhood adventures is shown in an extremely vivid and tangible manner. Although the narrative stays within the realistic realm, it has elements of fantasy shown through poetic imagery that add to it a very nostalgic and melancholic tone. The final scene of the film is an illustration of this. The portrayal of the vivid countryside landscape clearly alludes to the art current of Fauvism, which is partly what inspired the name of the short film. This link was further strengthened because in French, the word "fauve" means wildcats or beast, which the director thought was appropriate for the personality of the boys and the tone of the film. He wanted "an almost aggressive and primitive sounding word."
Comte declared himself fascinated by the relationship between Mother Nature and human nature, so when he decided to have two untrained child actors as the main characters, his desire to show raw human condition really came through. The performance of the two young boys (Felix Grenier and Alexandre Perreault) is extremely genuine and powerful, which reflects Comte's portrayal of childhood innocence and naivety being tested. The juxtaposition between their vulnerability and rugged (pre-mature) manhood classified them as perfect for the part, as Comte himself described as a 'rough around the edges' kind of energy.
Apart from the impressive acting, the cinematography was ultimately what brought Comte's dream alive. Cinematographer Olivier Gossot stated that he felt it was "important for the image to feel dusty and gritty, almost like the lens itself was dirty. There is something about child films where they are often too clean and polished", which explains why the film heads in a complete opposite direction, and with good reason.
The first half of the film has a hand-held carefree and light-hearted look while the second half consists of 'locked-off' shots, an overt technique used by the cinematographer to mirror the boys' (and consequently the audiences') emotions; wild and free in the beginning as opposed to trapped and constricted by the end.
The second half of the film also pays more attention to the landscape itself, playing with the idea of scale and misplacements. The whole sequence becomes somewhat experimental, which fits in well with the overarching dream-like feel. While Tyler is walking aimlessly, the came blurs the shot transitions while at the same time creating a lost sense of belonging. What this means is that it shows a sequence of shots with similar scales but then subverts audience's expectations by showing an extreme close-up of the soil, where the seemingly far-away character is now massive. This element of the storytelling is used scarcely and is therefore extremely effective, illustrating visually the character's emotions.
Critics of The New York Times have described the film's ending as "weirdly inconsequential", which to an extent is valid, but that is carried out with a purpose: to mirror the naivety of a young child when faced with unexpected misfortune. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that ultimately, this is a film about death. Death through the innocent eyes of a mere child, not glamourised or romanticised as is often the case with modern Hollywood. The ending, in fact, highlights the contrast between playfulness and seriousness, which has proved throughout the film to be incredibly powerful. The pace is unforgiving and doesn't allow the audience to breathe, technique which allows the audience to connect with the characters on a deeper level.
Being one of the best short films of 2018, Fauve rightfully deserves its 6 Oscar-qualifying film festival awards.
Fauve is now available to stream on Vimeo as one of their Staff Picks.