Fantasia 2018: The beautiful « Dans la brume » is not wild enough to open the festival

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It’s back again! Fantasia International Film Festival returns, and there are many great movies to watch. There are a handful of animated films, a couple of Westerns (which I reckon will be wilder than the shootout at the Ok Corral) and more revenge films than there are drops of blood in my body.

Yet, there are two films at Fantasia that should matter more than most. They are the opening and closing features. The closing film is Nicholas Cage’s Mandy, which looks and sounds bonkers.  The opening film sings a different tune. Daniel Roby’s Dans la brume is a French survival thriller, a quiet film with a minimal cast. Despite the film pulling all the right strings, I’m still curious why the organizers chose this movie as their opener.

When I look at the idea of an “opening film”, I tend to think of conclusions to trilogies, or the next big Quentin Tarantino endeavour. So I expect something grandiose when I walk in that theater with a skip to my step and my head held high. After all, it’s my first big adventure into the fray. Shouldn’t I get something that’ll blow my mind? I thought so, but I was gifted with the beautiful Dans la brume instead.

Don’t get me wrong, Dans la brume is a wonderful and artistic thriller. A sickly mist lurches its way into the streets of Paris like a murky ocean, killing anyone who breathes in the toxic clouds. Paris’ low buildings and narrow streets are an ideal setting for a haunting atmosphere, making the city look like it’s sinking into the sea. From an artistic point of view this lends to breathtaking aerial shots. Our protagonists, Mathieu and Anna, are a married couple who must use their intelligence and instincts to survive with their sick daughter, Sarah. Since Sarah suffers from a illness leaving her bedridden in a giant enclosure, her parents must risk life and limb to keep the machine’s battery at full, or she will perish.

Without a doubt, the movie succeeds in every possible way. It’s easy to sympathize and relate to the protagonists, since the movie has a small cast. Other movies, like The Mist, are chock full of cannon fodder extras that viewers know the only purpose they serve is  to create a lame attempt at  suspense. There’s a stake in every action and decision Anna and Mathieu make. One wrong move and it could be the end.

Unlike other thrillers that rely too much on jump scares and scare chords, Daniel Roby keeps his movie devoid of nearly all music. He focuses on the sounds of the mist’s echoes scraping in the dead streets of Paris to create tension. This strengthens the ambiance of the film, rendering the audience paranoid, awaiting the jump scare that never happens. When we do hear music, it’s forced and seems out of place. Luckily it doesn’t happen often.

Finally, the one detail that makes me love this movie is the absolute lack of a tangible villain. There’s no straw man so despicably cruel we use as our hate sink. Instead, we experience a story of the lengths parents will go for love. Poetically enough, the mist is colourless, as though the world is not black and white. In addition, we are not forced to endure a moral or political message. There’s no need to feel guilty about the inevitable  destruction of the environment.

Dans la brume is a beautiful film about family, love, and survival. It’s well paced, wonderfully shot, and doesn’t rely heavily on exposition.  Despite all the praise I’m giving, I’m still lost to why Fantasia International Film Festival 2018 chose to open with this film. It’s neither a special effects extravaganza, nor an adrenaline fueled epic of revenge. It’s a mellow film, promoting the quiet scenes instead of blood boiling action. I think it works better as a palate cleanser. In any affect, it is definitely is worth the watch.


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David Harris

David Harris has lived in Montreal his whole life. He thoroughly enjoys discussing most subjects including the arts, technology, and good food. He shows a great appreciation for good stories and dialogue, which suits his passions perfectly: television, movies, and graphic novels. But, deep down, he has to admit that his biggest love will always be with the movies and movie going experience.