Dir/scr: Martin Villeneuve. Canada. 2012. 90mins
A beautiful and deliberately esoteric slow-moving science-fiction film, Mars And April (Mars et Avril) will appeal to admirers of the comic book works of French writer/artists such as Jean Giraud (aka Meobius) and Philippe Druillet, though fans of pacier and more action-packed sci-fi fare will be frustrated by its philosophical talkiness.
The stunning futuristic Montreal is lovingly produced via the special effects, creating an unworldly and dreamy future city that fits perfectly with the graphic novel style.
The film is adapted from Martin Villeneuve’s two acclaimed graphic novels of the same name, and for the film version he collaborated with Belgian comic book artist Francois Schuiten (who drew the series Les Cites Obscures) to construct the elegant and stylish look of Mars And April. Debut writer/director Martin Villeneuve’s film had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
The film is set against a backdrop of a futuristic Montreal, where 3D newscasts are detailing humanity’s ambitious plans to finally set foot on Mars as three astronauts travel to the red planet. Elderly charismatic musician Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand) slows down time and entrances audiences as he plays hypnotic music on instruments inspired by women’s bodies, designed by his young friend Arthur (Paul Ahmarani).
A love triangle of sorts develops when both Jacob and Arthur fall in love with charismatic photographer April (Caroline Dhavernas), who is obsessed with Jacob, and uses Arthur as a way to try and meet him. Arthur designs an instrument based on her body, but things get complex when it turns out the design is similar to a shape found on Mars by Arthur’s father, the inventor, cosmologist Eugene Spark (Robert Lepage), who unveils a new theory about man’s desire to reach Mars and helps Jacob find the true meaning of life and love.
Martin Villeneuve (brother of director Denis Villeneuve, who made Incendies) shot the film almost entirely on green screen, working closely with acclaimed theatre director/actor Robert Lepage, who optioned the rights to the graphic novels in 2005. Lepage decided he had no time to make the film adaptation, but encouraged Villeneuve to direct.
In fact it is just Lepage’s head that features in the film itself. Eugene Spark is actually a body with a hologram as a head, and Lepage shot the scenes via six cameras trained on his head, while another actor played the cosmologist’s body.
The stunning futuristic Montreal is lovingly produced via the special effects, creating an unworldly and dreamy future city that fits perfectly with the graphic novel style. The audience for the film will be relatively niche. This type of esoteric sci-fi - such as Enki Bilal’s 2004 film Immortal (Ad Vitam) – works well in France and with fans of comics anthology Metal Hurlant and similar graphic novels, but rarely breaks out into the mainstream.
Of the performers, Caroline Dhavernas is the pick of the bunch, imbuing April with a captivating grace and sense of energy that some of the other performers lack (as if they are slightly hampered by the green screen format), and it is easy to see why she enraptures the two very different men.
Production company/sales: EMAfilms, http://emafilms.com
Producers: Anne-Marie Gelinas, Benoit Beaulieu, Martin Villeneuve
Cinematography: Benoit Beaulieu
Editor: Mathieu Demers
Production designer: Francois Schuiten
Music: Benoit Charest
Main cast: Jacques Languirand, Caroline Dhavernas, Paul Ahmarani, Robert Lepage