Back To Normandy
- Tom Dawson
- 13 March 2008
For this quietly compelling, multilayered documentary, French filmmaker Nicholas Philibert (Etre et Avoir) returned to the same Normandy agricultural community where, some 30 years earlier, he had served as an assistant director on Rene Allio’s period drama I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother. The latter explored a real-life triple murder committed by a young man in the 1830s, which had already inspired a research project led by the philosopher Michel Foucault.
One of the many distinctive aspects of Allio’s film is that non-professional actors from the region where the killings took place were asked to play the key roles of the murderer and his relatives and friends. In Back to Normandy Philibert goes back to this same area to examine the impact I, Pierre Riviere . . . had on these individuals’ lives and to ask how they remembered the actual shoot.
Philbert proves himself to be a patient, perceptive interviewer and a fluid storyteller, shifting between locations and time-frames, and weaving together clips from I, Pierre Riviere . . . , historical documents, production stills, and images of landscapes and livestock. Back to Normandy provides an unsentimental vision of everyday country life, not least in its depiction of a pig having its throat slit by a farmer. Most hearteningly however it proves that cinema has the capacity to bring together people of different ages and backgrounds in the pursuit of a common goal.
Selected release, from Fri 14 Mar.