The Young Mother Genevieve Rochette The Handspeaker Julie McClemens The Father Jacques Godin The Beggar Woman Estelle Clareton The Lover Kenneth Gould The China Doll Chi Long The Little Boy Emil Arsalane
With: Anne Barry. Carole Courtois, Gaetan Gingras, Sylvain Lafortune, Mireille Leblance, Maryse Poulin, Marie-Claude Rodrigue, Cas Anvar, Hugo Belanger Stephane Theoret.
Night of the Flood,” the first feature from Montreal helmer Bernar Hebert, is a beautifully crafted, visually stunning art film that seamlessly blends elements from the worlds of postmodern dance, experimental music and surrealistic cinema. Hebert, who has already garnered a good rep with short pics such as “Velazquez’s Little Museum,” shows with “Night of the Flood” that he is an audacious film stylist with no shortage of innovative ideas. But “Night of the Flood” remains a difficult, challenging pic, with no dialogue and a strange, dream-like narrative, and it will only click with auds well-versed in the canon ofcontemporary dance and performance art. It is too specialized to cross over to a wider public.
The film’s most likely home will be on arts cable outlets like Bravo in Canada, which helped with finance, and it is also a likely candidate to travel the rounds of the international festival circuit. The French-lingo pic opened commercially in Montreal in late September, and there is also an English version , which will open in Vancouver and Toronto in the coming months.
The peculiar tale is narrated in voiceover by a small child (the voice of Brendhan McCormick-Gagnon), who relates the bizarre, dramatic circumstances surrounding his birth. Hebert’s script is based on the dance show “Deluge” created by Montreal choreographer Ginette Laurin for her O Vertigo troupe in 1994, and parts of the story are also inspired by the myths and legends of Brittany.
At the start, a young woman (Genevieve Rochette) is walking through the woods at night and approaches a small cottage, where she meets her lover (Kenneth Gould). They almost immediately begin making love in the cabin in a scene that is choreographed like an erotic dance, and when next seen, she has become pregnant.
Her severe-looking father (Jacques Godin) discovers her swollen belly and promptly goes ballistic. He has her put into a coffin-like box, which is then sealed and floated down the river. As the cargo floats along the choppy river, a ferocious storm erupts and her mute half-sister (Julie McClemens) appears to tell her in sign language that everyone else has perished in this flood of Biblical proportions. Her half-sister is actually a ghost and, throughout her nocturnal journey, the pregnant woman meets a succession of ghosts from her past , including her dead parents.
The second half concentrates even more on dance, kicking off with curious chorcography outside what looks like an abandoned, ancient chateau. The lead character and her ghost-sister then end up in an empty medieval village where all the streets are covered in water from the storm.
Hebert takes an unabashedly poetic approach to the material, focusing on the haunting imagery and choreography over everything else, and he packs the pic with memorable images and mysterious moments. But the absence of dialogue and the lack of a standard narrative will confuse some viewers.
Both Rochette and McClemens are intense and suitably enigmatic, and they make their presence felt in a bigway. Godin in positively evil as the wrathful father, and the other performers, including 10 dancers from the O Vertigo group, are notable mainly for their sleek, physical, often sexy dance moves.
Lensing by Serge Ladouceur creates one handsome tableau after another, and the nocturnal setting is reinforced throughout with a series of dimly lit scenes. Gaetan Gravel and Serge Laforest’s score plays a major role, and they drive the choreography with tunes that vary from dark, melancholic pseudo-medieval instrumentals to more upbeat, beat-heavy world-music numbers. Serge Bureau’s elegant art direction is another key element, and the unique sets add to the dream-like atmosphere.
This is an odd hybrid of a performance documentary and a fiction feature, and it’s that unusual concoction that makes “Night of the Flood” so compelling. But it will also ensure that it only appeals to specialized auds.