Father Of My Children

August 24, 2010

It is always impressive, if not somewhat daunting, to me when someone of my own age has produced so polished a work of art as Mia Hansen-Løve, whose second feature film, Father Of My Children (Le père de mes enfants, 2009) hits Australian cinemas this week. An unsettling film in the first instance for its abrasive narrative shifts, Løve’s filmmaking slowly reveals a perceptive, provocative vision.

Any film that leads with a “film in film” narrative, as Father Of My Children does, draws attention to the craft of filmmaking, most often with a view to comment on its significance to the reception of the finished product. With this particular film however, the emphasis is placed upon the idea that the juxtaposed “moral projects” of an artistic process and its financial viability creates two distinct final pictures and, moreover, pictures that do not necessarily share any common ground. Without saying too much about the story itself (the affect of the film works best if you know only a little), it is fair to say that if you remove one individual’s interiority and subjectivity from a project it does in no way mean that the picture will not persist. On the contrary, what Løve is offering is the idea that one’s internal conflict can affect the image up unto a point and, ultimately, the image(s) will live a new life separate from their creators and most significantly that they will come to mean something else to someone else (the viewer).

Father Of My Children is the story of independent film production company, Moon Films. Despite financial difficulty and emotional strain, Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), owner and founder of Moon Films, gives a significant proportion of himself to supporting and producing independent films and filmmakers whose often indulgent and arrogant ways he puts down to “artistic genius vision”. Constantly placing the needs and desires of others before his own, Grégoire reaches desperation, his own family unable to intervene. With wonderful subtle reserve, the supporting cast (with special mention of Chiara Caselli in the role of Sylvia, Louis-Do’s onscreen wife) who constitute his family and professional colleagues, convey a strong sense of stoicism in the wake of one man’s lost subjectivity.

Filled with “metaphysical worry” and emphasis on integrity above fulfillment; Sylivia tells Grégoire, “I’d like you to decide to be happy”; Løve takes on a variety of complex issues pertaining to both filmmaking and life in a wider more inclusive sense. An intelligent film with a carefully split vision between that which is onscreen and that which is not: one reflecting or imitating the other ad infinitum yet still somehow ultimately distinct, persisting perhaps in spite of, not necessarily because of, each other.

Father Of My Children is released in Australian cinemas on Thursday August 26 through Palace Films.

Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision

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