Shutterbug/vid artist Delphine Kreueter focuses her singular vision on a wildly dysfunctional family and the teen at its center in the disturbing, engrossing "57000 Km Between Us."

Shutterbug/vid artist Delphine Kreueter focuses her singular vision on a wildly dysfunctional family and the teen at its center in the disturbing, engrossing “57000 Km Between Us.” Intimately probing a family keen on outward projection but lacking in interior depth, pic deftly plays with the mania for self-recording and private websites to highlight the breakdown of real communication, where children are largely ignored accoutrements to an external display of home life. While Kreuter’s reflection of the contempo world will be too harsh and perverse for average auds, fests should narrow the distance.

Fourteen-year-old Nat (Marie Burgun) keeps mostly to her cluttered room, understandably preferring the company of computer games and Web friends to that of her creepily cloying stepfather Michel (Pascal Bongard) and his 24/7 vid recording of their family life, uploaded onto the Web each day for all to see. Mom Margot (Florence Thomassin) is an active participant in the productions; meanwhile, their two young adopted kids are even more ignored than Nat, who would prefer to move in with transsexual dad Nicole (Stephanie Michelini) and her husband Khaled (Mohamed Rouabhi).

Nat has two Web playmates: diaper-clad fetishist Simon (Mathieu Amalric in a brief, unsettling role) and hospitalized teen Adrien (Hadrien Bouvier), who claims his webcam is broken rather than allow Nat a glimpse of his bald pate. Ironically, Adrien’s mother (Vera Briole) keeps her webcam off when conversing with her son online, unable to face a visit, let alone view him on a computer screen.

In Kreuter’s world of dysfunctionality, Nat is, hands-down, the most mature of the lot. Others come to realize that personal, physical communication can’t be replaced by a webcam, but only Nat appears to process this info in an unselfish manner. Unlike everyone around her, she offers hope of a reasonably fulfilled life.

Pic’s structure and visuals reflect Kreuter’s background as a video artist: She’s constantly switching between Michel’s camcorder footage, with its swoopy, indiscriminate form, and her carefully constructed, patiently measured shots. Helmer enjoys playing with expectation, often in delightful, if occasionally provoking ways, though there are times when it’s not at all clear what she’s aiming for: An almost hallucinogenic sequence with Nicole and two tranny friends sailing down a river, Dolly Parton’s “If” on the soundtrack, doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Perhaps an evocation of messy lives inevitably means there’ll be pieces that stand alone.

57000 Km Between Us

France

Production

A Pierre Grise Distribution release (in France) of a Les Films du Poisson production. Produced by Laetitia Gonzalez, Yael Fogiel. Executive producer, Delphine Kreuter. Directed by Delphine Kreuter. Screenplay, Kreuter, Mathieu Lis, with the collaboration of Emmanuel Finkiel.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Kreuter; editors, Valentine Borlant, Francois Gedigier, Kreuter; production designer, costume designer, Fabrice Lorrain; sound (DTS), Nicolas Washkowksi, Nicolas Gerlic, Frederic Attal. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Sturm und Drang), Jan. 26, 2008. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Florence Thomassin, Pascal Bongard, Marie Burgun, Hadrien Bouvier, Stephanie Michelini, Mohamed Rouabhi, Vera Briole, Chloe Mons, Mathieu Amalric, Julie Land, Emmanuel Finkiel, Eve Bitoun, Jacob Lyon, Darla Dienstag, Victor Fieve, Gregory Epenoy, Martin Menahem.

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