Dir/scr. Fanny Ardant. France, Portugal, Romania, 2009. 105 min
Gorgeous landscapes and spectacular cinematography aside, Fanny Ardant’s first feature seems to indicate that she might be better off staying with her day job as a highly respected actress. She seems uncomfortable behind the camera in Ashes And Bood, and not terribly confident as a writer. Her tale of blood revenge, which takes place in an unspecified location but is shot entirely in Transylvania, is hesitant, confused, and too sketchy to follow. Though Ardant’s name might draw attention, this will be a tough sell in the marketplace.
Judith’s (Elkabetz) husband has been murdered in the “old country”. Once widowed, she severs her ties with her family and takes her two sons, Pashko (Belaga) and Ismael (Ruchmann), and younger daughter Mira (Bouanich) to Marseilles, to live far away from the homeland she evidently abhors. Ten years later, she is invited for a family wedding and reluctantly returns.
The cold reception waiting there for them indicates some problems, and some of the reasons for this animosity are eventually clarified as the relationships between the three clans which run this mysterious place become clearer.
Thanks in part to Judith’s actions, there is now a visceral vendetta between the families, which could have been averted by the forthcoming wedding. Instead, the presence of Judith and her sons, particularly the hotheaded, uncontrollable Pashko, breed even more animosity, reaching its inevitable climax in another death.
The convoluted story takes place in the empty countryside, and is uniformly over-acted, as if there were no firm hand on the reins. With uneasy dialogue, in French and Romanian, the editing confuses rather than clarifies the issues. It is hard, at the end, to understand what exactly attracted Ardant to this story or why she found it so necessary to put on screen.
The one real consolation are the glorious Transylvania locations and Gerard de Battista’s camera. He always manages to find the most interesting angles to shoot and captures the most striking colour combinations and contrasts throughout the entire film.
Alfama Films Production
Arte France Cinema
(33) 1 42 01 07 05
Gerard de Battista