A startling tone poem about the gap left by the loss of a child, “Feathers in My Head” juggles vignettes of joy and grief with a deliberate, sometimes heartbreaking, touch. Message that the broader scheme of life goes on however intense individual suffering is explored with bold if leisurely strokes. Fest play and French-lingo hardtop outings are indicated for pic of few words and strong imagery from docu-and-short filmmaker Thomas de Thier in his feature debut.
In the Belgian town of Genappe, Jean-Pierre (Francis Renaud) and Blanche (Sophie Museur) maintain a hearty carnal connection while raising their appealing red-headed son Arthur (Ulysse De Swaef), age 5. When Arthur meets an accidental death some 25 minutes in, Blanche goes on as if nothing has changed.
Elliptical editing creates a dreamy, disorienting impact as helmer finds elegant ways to show that the boy is still very much alive in his mother’s head. A particularly vivid scene has Blanche looking on adoringly as — in her imagination — Arthur rides the coin-operated pony at a grocery store; the customers and staff are frozen in discomfort at the sight of Blanche feeding coins to the ride without a kid in sight.
Extreme close-ups of insects and other reps of Mother Nature alternate with evidence that Jean-Pierre wants his wife to wake up to reality however blissful she may feel in her cocoon of denial.
Set over the course of four seasons, pic proudly embraces its metaphysical, contemplative bent. Lensing is sharp and evocative; camera movements are rare. From the mini-waterfall formed by a stream of water as it cascades off a human navel to migratory birds scavenging for industrial waste, pic records the limitless beauty of the material world. Venture also incorporates sly commentaries to emphasize that Belgium should not be confused with France.
Score is appropriate although a cappella tidbits by a trio of men seen onscreen jar more than they should.