Genius Loci


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Genius Loci
"Adrien Merigeau's film makes use of a variety of contrasts to shed light on place and personality."

The spirit of the place does not perhaps bear a cornucopia but watches the hob, a toddler, boiling over. Exploring similar minimalisms of character design as her 2009 short Old Fangs, Adrien Merigeau's film makes use of a variety of contrasts to shed light on place and personality.

The stovetop pot kaleidoscopes onto the counter, the ringing flood echoes towards the baby gaol in the corner. Each frame painterly, enthralling, none clipped from context would disgrace a wall. We "find chaos", caught up, bound up, "cannot stop, only watch, listen". Somewhere between pastel and watercolour, a soft uncertainty, we wait for a sign.

A minotaur is drawn in the labyrinth light of a passing train. Something not glass is stained. The word at the end of the alleyway says "relapse" and we are on that edge. In quality and depth of animation there is inference and implication, from the suspicions of scent and sweat and slumber to the stark geometry of a monochrome pyramidal aspect.

Already award-winning, nominated for an Oscar, Genius Loci was part of the EFA programme at 2021's Glasgow Short Film Festival. There the subtitles skipped a moment of written French - "what's wrong with you, go talk to this 'little princess', what were you expecting frankly, you can never be yourself with these people, free yourself from all this". There might be a failure of idiom there, but not one of emotion. This is bleak but beautiful.

The groined vaults loom as the organ swells, "it's alive", "it shines", "it transforms things". So too the film. Merigau writes, directs, animates, a voice cast of Nadia Moussa, Georgia Cusack, Jina Djemba bring further life to Reine, Rosie, Mouna. The city is alive even to the lives within it, drawn from and to and by each bit of detail and absence thereof.

On the small screen short film can flourish but cinema often fails to transport when it requires windows and not doors. Genius Loci still captivates, colour and clamour and quality. Le Quan Ninh and Theo Merigeau provide music but it is sight that steals the attention. Co-written with Nicolas Pleskof, as with much animation, not just singular vision but collaborative (and massive) effort, there is a succession of delight.

The inky litter of styrofoam sequesters singers, moles with muted trumpets, black and white above a twisting piano keyboard. A dendritic maze, varicoloured branches like a stuttering scaffold. The peaceful invitation above a cathedral door. Empty lines, black eyes. The detritus of passage through the day, ear-ring, key-ring, mobile phone waiting for someone to ring.

As the end nears, chaos rains. The looping visuals becomes lupine viciousness, or vulpine, or canine, but despite a surge of adrenaline as bound up in roles and stages as any Columbine. In harlequin swirls of form and colour function is clear, captivating. In the end it is through closeness that it achieves strength. Not to realism, though it is realistic, not through abstraction, though it is abstract. From feelings, their evocation, and, summoning genius loci, invocation.

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2021
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Genius Loci packshot
One night, Reine, a young loner, sees within the urban chaos a mystical oneness that seems alive, like some sort of guide.

Director: Adrien Mérigeau

Writer: Adrien Merigeau, Nicolas Pleskof

Starring: Nadia Moussa, Georgia Cusack, Jina Djemba

Year: 2020

Runtime: 16 minutes

Country: France


GSFF 2021

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