If teenage is mad, nature is madder. There are are a fair share of daft people in Le Souffle, who are treated as amusing divertissements.

Damien Odoul's black-and-white debut is short and dark. It portrays the rural idyll as brutalised, distorted, anarchic and dirty. The opening scene shows a sheep being stabbed in the throat, strung up, gutted and having its head cut off. That's what farmers do when they're not sitting around the barn, playing cards.

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David (Pierre-Louise Bonnetblanc) is 15. It seems that he has been dumped with his uncles on a peasant homestead, with outside toilet, in the Limousin region of France, where things haven't changed since they burnt witches at the stake. The men tend to be fat and ugly and there is no sign of women.

David hates his life, or rather hates this life. When he's not kicking a chicken, or dashing into a flock of sheep like a howling dervish, he's burying his pet rabbit, or creeping through woods with a loaded rifle. His rebellion is all consuming. He doesn't know what to do and so goes crazy for the sake of it, because everything else is boring.

Odoul's vision has a unique quality of strangeness and Bonnetblanc's performance is extraordinary. If acting is pretending, this is not acting. His absorption into the role is so complete that he wears his emotions outside his clothes and lets madness flow.

The roguish energy of a dislocated life, trapped out of time, in a place where death hangs like a rotted carcass, has fear in its wake.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2003
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Harsh coming of age drama set in rural France.
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Read more Le Souffle reviews:

George Williamson ***
David Haviland *

Director: Damien Odoul

Writer: Damien Odoul

Starring: Pierre-Louis Bonnetblanc, Dominique Chevallier, Maxime Dalbrut, Jean-Claude Lecante, Jean Milrod

Year: 2001

Runtime: 77 minutes

Country: France


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