Damien Boisseau, Stefen Eynius, Anne-Laure Gruet, Anne-Helene Orvelin
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Writer/director Marie Vandelannoote has crafted a thoughtful, engaging film with Funeral, a 15-minute short film that serves partly as meditation and partly as a psychological journey in exploring the grief and unresolved guilt facing four siblings as they gather for the funeral of their youngest sibling who has died by suicide.
The film opens with the arrival of Justine (Anne-Laure Gruet), whose tardiness is immediately jumped upon by her siblings Julie (Anne-Helene Orvelin), Antoine (Stefen Eynius), and Jean (Damien Boisseau). There's a theatricality to the set-up, the four siblings sitting opposite their brother's casket in a dimly lit room that feels both intimate and more than a little ominous. There's a religiosity at work, especially in the film's early dialogue but even within Marc Pacon's set decoration.
There's a heaviness even when the words being spoken aren't particularly heavy.
Vandelannoote obviously understands the relational aspects of character development, each character here essential and developed beautifully despite a relatively sparse 15-minute running time and material that is easily defined as weighty. Boisseau's Jean feels a bit like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz here, his actions constantly triggering other actions and responses and conflicts amongst his siblings. He's seemingly stoic at times, yet far from stoic. Eynius's Antoine, on the other hand, seems to internalize most of his experiences and one can't help but wonder about the childhood dynamics between the two brothers. Orvelin's Julie wears her grief openly, yet she also possesses a groundedness seemingly founded upon her faith and maturity. Gruet's performance, perhaps the most layered and complex, is immensely engaging as the younger sister whose grief takes a less concrete form yet is no less immense.
Funeral accomplishes quite a bit within its running time, Vandelannoote managing to bring to life years of a family's complexities and unresolved issues and the ways in which each sibling, in their own way, had given up on their brother who, in turn, had ultimately given up. There's a grief that Funeral wears with all of this that is intense, chaotic and yet strangely familiar within its familial structure.
You could almost say there's a dirge-like quality at work within Funeral, a melancholy rhythm of life that is structured beautifully and brought vividly to life via Vandelannoote's words, a tremendous ensemble cast, and Manuel Laurent's exceptional cinematography.
Thoughtful and intimate, challenging and insightful, Funeral is the kind of film that leads to post-viewing conversations and extended periods of personal reflection. It may even cause you to call your loved ones.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic