An ‘Amour Fou’ of literal madness: Young Tallints review of Adoration
By Līga Požarska, Young Tallints participant
Fabrice Du Welz’s Adoration explores young love coping with serious issues that would test even the most resilient of couples as the director takes on a journey of making us remember the intense and idealistic way we saw the world when we were 12.
Screening in Black Nights ‘Signature’ programme, Adoration marks Fabrice Du Welz’s return to the festival after screening with such previous films as Calvaire (2004), Vinyan (2008) and Alléluia (2014) – all horror films and thrillers that explore how a couple deals with unusual and dangerous situations.
12-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria, who came to prominence in 2017s Custody) spends his days playing in the nearby forest and being especially friendly with the birds in the clinic where his mother works. One day the uncontrollable teenage girl Gloria (Fantine Harduin, who shined in Michael Haneke’s 2017 version of Happy End) steals his attention when Paul observes her rebelling against her caregivers. Gradually the kids grow closer to each other, despite the mother and the doctor warning Paul to keep his distance. Soon the children are forced to flee, ending up wandering the wilderness of Ardennes and learning the first lessons of survival and love.
There are already bunch of well-known films depicting mental illness as well as couples on the run, and Adoration comes across a blend of Persona and Les Amants Criminels.
Harduin strong performance as Gloria gives the character the dual nature the director and his fellow screenwriters have created in their script. Harduin brings out the contrasts in Gloria’s portrayal – she is a beautiful troubled girl, who sometimes feels more aware than those around her. But after hearing her yet another of her conspiracies, the spectator starts to doubt Gloria’s sense of reality. She is a madman and a seductive siren, shifting from being an innocent child to turning into a raging young femme fatale. DoP Manuel Dacosse’s super 16mm camera closely registers Gloria’s ‘Bambi stare’ rapidly changing into a madperson’s gaze.
Gloria’s performance is engaging as he portrays a boy who falls in love at a very young age and needs to mature rapidly in order to deal with a mentally ill girl. His naive and boyish appearance adds to the contradictions between his youth and the situation he finds himself in. Gloria manages to convey his hero’s growing psychological strength and reluctance to give up. An injured bird Paul nurtures back to health serves as a metaphor, which illustrates his willingness to save and preserve Gloria and not to let go.
While the title illustrates Paul’s fascination with Claudia’s temptress nature, the settings illustrate the loneliness of Paul and Gloria. The couple are thrown into solitary environments such as the asylum and the wilderness. These places show the true spectrum of their paranoia, sincerity and deviousness. The fog that rolls through their surroundings and Paul’s re-occurring dreams about Gloria being lost in a tropical forest or having her face look like a doll’s face adds an emphasis to the feeling that Paul must open his eyes and come with the terms of reality. He is not just in love with a beautiful girl, but a troubled and challenging young woman.