Gorge coeur ventre [Still Life] (2016)

Gorge coeur ventre [literally: Throat Heart Stomach]
Director: Maud Alpi
Writer: Maud Alpi, Baptiste Boulba
Cast: Virgile Hanrot, Dimitri Buchenet
Seen on: 13.8.2016

Plot:
A young man (Virgile Hanrot) and his dog Boston spend their nights working at a slaughterhouse. The dog has to wait outside while the man makes sure that the animals go to their death as promptly as possible. During the day, they spend most of their time living in an abandoned house, without many comforts. They seem to be waiting for something, but it isn’t clear for what.

Gorge Coeur Ventre looks at the relationship between tenderness and cruelty, on which it is an interesting meditation, but one that would have probably sufficed to be a short film rather than a feature.

gorgecoeurventre

There is a fundamental schism at the heart of the film: its protagonist with his punkish, rough exterior has nothing but tenderness for his dog. But he also works as a butcher and there aren’t many moments where killingt the animals seems to bother him even in the slightest. He has a girlfriend, but their relationship, too, is a mix of caress and aggression. His friendship with the other butcher from the slaughterhouse, too, isn’t free from aggressive elements.

Thus the film seems to beg the question: how can we reconcile all of this. How can we live with the contrariness in our own lives: adoring our pets, but eating so much meat it threatens to destroy our planet (among other things); denouncing human rights violations, but letting refugees die rather than enter Europe; and of course there are many more examples.

gorgecoeurventre1It’s an interesting point and with Alpis almost documentarian take on the story, it becomes unobtrusive. So unobtrusive, in fact, that I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t see anything of what I saw in the film (or anything at all), which seems like a missed chance. Making the point (or a point) more succinctly may have made the film feel less stretched.

But unfortunately it did feel stretched, and the calm manner in which it was made, seemed destined to make my mind wander, leaving the film much weaker than it had to be. Still, it will be interesting to see what Alpi does next – this was her first feature film after all.

gorgecoeurventre2Summarizing: It’s not a must-see, but it’s not bad either.

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