The Living World

For viewers who take it lightly, "The Living World" is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. Short and sweet, it would make for offbeat family TV programming.

With:
Nicolas - Adrien Michaux Lion Knight - Alexis Loret Maiden of the Chapel - Laurene Cheilan Penelope - Christelle Prot

For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. Short and sweet, it would make for offbeat family TV programming.

Leaving his parents’ home, young Nicolas (Adrien Michaux) takes out through the forest, where he encounters the brave Lion Knight (Alexis Loret), barely older than he is. In a delightful bit of casting, a large Labrador plays the knight’s lion companion, whose frightening roar is heard courtesy of the sound mixer.

While the Knight goes off to kill an ogre who eats children, Nicolas meets the lovely Maiden of the Chapel (Laurene Cheilan of the wavy blonde hair and alabaster hand), who is the ogre’s captive. She gives Nicolas a magic sword and urges him to help the Lion Knight kill the beast.

Reaching the castle first, the Knight falls in love with the ogre’s beautiful wife Penelope (a noble Christelle Prot). She goes for him, too. However, like the Maiden, she is bound to her husband by “her word.” Both the Knight and Nicolas engage the monster in combat, but only one defeats him. Penelope, who is a vegetarian, frees the children she was supposed to cook for dinner and everyone lives happily ever after.

Setting is no-budget-Medieval, with the outer wall and courtyard of an old castle providing the film’s main sets. French stage helmer Eugene Green, admired for his feature film bow “Toutes les nuits,” has a simple, direct relationship to his actors, who wear blue jeans and speak in normal French slang, getting laughs throughout the dialogue. Their calm, open faces provide deadpan masks for the jokes.

Raphael O’Byrne’s lensing has the same kind of directness, whether illuminating a plain stone bed chamber or an enchanted tree in the forest. Rudely jerking the story out of this universal mode are references (which earned laughs at the Cannes screening, however) to things like the “Jules Ferry laws” (they reformed the Napoleonic code, for those in the know) and psychoanalyst-guru Jacques Lacan.

Even more worrisome is a slew of pointed dialogue, placed just at pic’s climax, about “the word” and how it apparently brought the Lion Knight back from the dead. At this point auds should probably be asking how Lacan’s teachings relate to the opening Dies Irae funeral hymn and a Master Eckhardt quote about God. But the film’s best side is much less complicated.

The Living World

Directors Fortnight / Belgium-France

Production: A Mact Prods./Les Films du Fleuve co-production. (International sales: Mact, Paris.) Produced by Martine de Clermont-Tonnerre. Co-produced by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardennes. Directed, written by Eugene Green.

Crew: Camera (color), Raphael O'Byrne; editors, Benoit de Clerck, Cheng Xiao Xing; production designer, Jerome Perrier; sound (Dolby SR), Dana Farzanehpour. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 19, 2003. Running time: 75 MIN.

With: Nicolas - Adrien Michaux Lion Knight - Alexis Loret Maiden of the Chapel - Laurene Cheilan Penelope - Christelle Prot

More Film

  • China Box Office: 'Dying' Holds off

    China Box Office: 'Dying to Survive' Scores $69 Million, Holds Off 'Hidden Man'

    For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. […]

  • Elsie Fisher appears in I Think

    'Eighth Grade' Rules Indie Box Office With Top Screen Average of 2018

    For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. […]

  • International Box Office: 'Hotel Transylvania 3'

    'Hotel Transylvania 3' Climbs Past 'Skyscraper' at International Box Office

    For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. […]

  • Box Office: 'Skyscraper' Underperforms; 'Hotel Transylvania

    Box Office: 'Skyscraper' Gets Rocky Start as 'Hotel Transylvania 3' Checks In at No. 1

    For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. […]

  • Mitzi Gaynor and Nancy Sinatra Sr.

    Nancy Sinatra Sr., Frank Sinatra's First Wife, Dies at 101

    For viewers who take it lightly, “The Living World” is a funny, charming faux-fairy tale about ogres, knights and maidens; but it threatens to sport a hairy intellectual underbelly that only those well-versed in French culture can appreciate. It’s certainly better to take the film as a witty piece of fun enjoyable for all ages. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content