La Maladie Blanche


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

La Maladie Blanche
"There is little substance beneath this atmospheric top layer."

Set over the course of one night, La Maladie Blanche (literally "The White Disease", which may be a reference to the fungal bloom that destroys cave paintings when they are exposed to fresh air) takes place in a small village in the Pyrenees. While a local party continues into the small hours, children tell fairy tales around a fire and cast shadow puppets on the walls, teenagers find moments of intimacy in barns, and adults discuss the behaviour of toads and wild boars.

Based on their conversations and lack of familiarity with the ways of the locale, the two leads - five-year-old Myrtille (Myrtille Bonnenfant) and her father (Manuel Vallade) - seem to be visiting the area rather than long-term residents. Myrtille is among the children telling fairy tales and her father later reads her Beauty And The Beast as a bedtime story. As she brushes her teeth, Myrtille's reflection changes to that of her absent mother (Clémentine Poidatz) - the little girl banishes the magic mirror's image by throwing water at it, but it is apparent that she is under the influence of the evening's enchanted tales. She drifts off into a restless sleep following a conversation with her father about the prehistoric era and the origins of cave paintings.

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The black and white cinematography has the quality of 'night vision' with a slightly unreal cast to the light, which is heightened by the flickering lights of the nearby party and a full moon in the sky - there is the air of one of the tales Myrtille has been listening to. Into this unreal atmosphere wanders a wild boar who leaves the forest and enters Myrtille's house through an open door. The little girl is woken by the animal crashing into things and - when her appearance startles the boar into leaving the property - she follows it back into the forest. Man, child, and beast will all end up stumbling around the forest and a network of dark, underground caves.

The affinity between animal and child - Myrtille will claim that she can translate the boar's grunts - again lends the film an air of a fairy tale, but there is little substance beneath this atmospheric top layer. Fairy tales usually have a point to them - a moral or a lesson - but La Maladie Blanche tails off without a resolution or a clear sense of an ending. Overall, the film plays like an exercise in creating an otherworldly ambience in an isolated setting - which it does well - rather than a complete narrative.

Reviewed on: 08 May 2015
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La Maladie Blanche packshot
In an isolated village in the Pyrenees, the nocturnal world entangles stories of shadow puppets, magic mirrors, and prehistoric paintings for a father and his young daughter.

Director: Christelle Lheureux

Writer: Christelle Lheureux

Starring: Myrtille Bonnenfant, Manuel Vallade, Clémentine Poidatz, Naïty Escot, Bob Escot, Jacques Blanco, Katya Bonnenfant, Daniel San Martin

Year: 2011

Runtime: 43 minutes

Country: France


D'A Festival 2015

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