At first, it is all a little rare. The audacious structure designed by director Nicole Garcia levels audience and protagonist by putting us all in a puzzling state.
As the film begins, we see a prologue of Gabrielle with her husband and son, followed by the flashback of her younger years in a sort of sexuality awakening phase. We then follow the chronological events of her life until we reach again the events of the first scene. The circular structure, however, is not the totality of the narrative, as the final act of From The Land Of The Moon inserts us in a much less stable territory of memories and non-chronological events of the past. It is also in this last phase when the little particularities that didn’t quite set throughout the film are finally brought to make sense by the audacious proposal of the director Nicole Garcia.
The structure itself is quite self-referential on this film, as the narrative makes use of many recurring symbols as books, letters, photographs and music, which carries a special meaning as a diegetic leitmotif. But also, thematic elements such as the river and the characters running into the woods are treated as recurrent pieces which cue the narrative stages to the audience. Additionally, taken as a whole, this structure also reinforces the subtext of memory and recollection which is vital to construct the protagonist obsession with the threads of her story that have remained open.
Although it is a historical tale, the historical references are not particularly strongly imposed apart from granting a context for the story. The period costumes are presented with an artistic license, which results in an esthetically pleasant experience. The whole film navigates around tones of blue and yellow, and includes breathtaking landscapes of lavender fields and snowy mountains. The visual elements are combined with a warm photography provided in part by the abundant use of natural sourced light. Also, the choice of exploring a focused source of light for a great part of the scenes create a very soothing ciaro/oscuro effect.
The natural source is for this reason interesting. In many interior scenes the light comes from a door or a window, reinforcing the constrained feeling of the character. The green fields outside can be viewed within the shot, maintaining nature there as a potency inside the constrained environment. This is the perfect metaphor for the character Gabrielle, which balances a urgency for fulfillment with a restraint or frustration of her desires by the moral codes imposed on the character.
Although it is a powerful film for women, dealing with issues very alive on feminist discussions today, a more radical audience might be disappointed by the lack of weight the female relations carry towards the resolution of the film. If throughout her journey Gabrielle connects with her husband Jose, her lover Mr. Sauvage and with the maid and friend Augustine, the last act of the film is completely oblivious of Augustine’s existence, not problematizing any events surrounding Gabrielle and the maid. Certainly, however, if not perfect, From The Land of The Moon is a step in the right direction towards a more sincere representation of the feminine on screen.
We screened the film at Rendez-Vous With French Cinema presented by Unifrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center.