Eye For Film >> Movies >> One Long Winter Without Fire (2004) Film Review
One Long Winter Without Fire
Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald
Oh, what a face has Aurelien Recoing - a big man, who's in shape. His rotund, unshaven visage masks so much pain I was amazed that his character, Jean, a mountain cattle farmer, found the will to get up in the morning, let alone carry on. We learn quickly that he's lost most of his livestock and, tragically, his daughter in a recent fire - the grey smouldering ashes open the film, an image repeated throughout.
His wife suffers a nervous breakdown, in a stunning scene of both actors grieving in a cruel physical mix of rage and impotency. He finds her finger painting herself, like the five-year-old they lost. And then she is admitted to the psychiatric ward at the local hospital.
Jean is also damaged, so internally traumatised that he dare not light a fire in the barn, which causes his cows to produce less milk. When a friend lights one to warm the place up, Jean uses the precious milk to extinguish it in a rage. With the farm in serious financial difficulty, he begs his old school friend to give him a job in the ironworks. "You're either made for this, or not", the friend exclaims. Recurring images of his daughter's blazing body overpowers him from time to time. Pragmatist, or not, he needs help.
A pair of adult siblings, Kosovan refugees, with their own horrific stories, befriend the lonely Jean, gradually allowing him to rejoin the real world and grieve for his great loss. The woman, shares his pain, due to her own refusal to grieve for her missing husband, and becomes open to his suffering, allowing him to heal. Their platonic relationship is a necessary and marvellous generosity. Jean becomes a refugee of sorts, from his farm and family, and shares the other refugees in brotherhood, sharing time together, dancing in mass gatherings, sharing in their mutual estrangement.
His wife moves in with her sister, a deeply cynical woman, who has been hurt in the past, and has no wish to let herself feel strongly about anything ever again. Her cruel language, choosing to force blame on Jean - "Do you want to live with a man who killed your child?" - cuts too deep.
I've made this sound depressing and overly sad. It is not. It is a strongly emotive tone poem. The imagery mixes the stark white of snow and light with the dark interior of the farmhouse, reflecting their memories of the child.
It is a startling work that teaches the redemptive power of self-forgiveness in a slow coming to terms with loss. A masterly scene about love that lasts a lifetime closes the film. It touches us deeply and makes the point that the only happiness we have is that which we make for one another.Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2005