Coma (2022)

Director: Bertrand Bonello
Writer: Bertrand Bonello
Cast: Julia Faure, Louise Labeque, Ninon François, Bonnie Banane, Laetitia Casta, Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Lacoste, Louis Garrel, Anaïs Demoustier
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2022

A teenage girl (Louise Labeque) in her room during lockdown, waiting for time to pass. While she waits, she watches the youtube videos of Patricia Coma (Julia Faure), lifestyle influencer, who becomes her guide more and more as the girl drifts through daytime where her barbie dolls (voiced by Laetitia Casta, Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Lacoste, Louis Garrel and Anaïs Demoustier) come to life and act out jealousy dramas and nighttime dreams in a mysterious forest.

Coma is a strange film, a wild mix of things that don’t seem to have much to do with each other at first glance, and yet manage to capture that feeling of displacement that the first (and only true) COVID lockdown gave us. I loved it.

The film poster showing the teenager (Louise Labeque) sitting on her bed in rotoscopic animation.

I can imagine that Coma is the kind of film that people will either love or hate. It’s hard to imagine anything in-between. It’s too unusual for indifference. It mixes pretty much everything together in a heady mix – starting with both rotoscopic and stop-motion animation that seems to get thrown into the film just because. While the former arguably remains mostly a gag, the latter becomes an integral part of the protagonist’s state of mind.

But that’s not all. We get the youtube videos by Patricia Coma that seem a mix of advice and shopping channel and become increasingly weirder. We get the dream sequences in the forest that have a tangible nightmare quality that starts to bleed over into the girl’s reality. We have a quick interlude from a slasher horror. Much like the protagonist, the film seems to try everything in its power to do something else than the usual.

The teenager (Louise Labeque) sleeping, watched by a barbie doll.

And it succeeds in that. Coma is a film unlike any others. This state of exception perfectly mirrors what that first lockdown felt like, and it’s the first film that I saw that accurately captures the strange mood of that time. I think it manages that because it turns inward so much: it really is an examinaton of the girl’s state of mind and discovers the vast multitudes that she contains and that get activated in the absence of pretty much everything else.

It’s a funny film with a good sense of humor but it doesn’t set out to make people laugh, that’s not its primary goal. This gave it the opportunity to be more than a joke, to show the absurdity of the situation without forgetting its very serious reason – and the fear lurking within that absurdity. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Patricia Coma (Julia Faure) on her youtube channel.

Summarizing: absolutely fantastic.

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