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Thread: THUNDER/FOUDRE (Carmen Jaquier 2022)

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    THUNDER/FOUDRE (Carmen Jaquier 2022)

    CARMEN JAQUIER: THUNDER/FOUDRE (2022)


    LILITH GRASMUG (TOP), MERMOZ MELCHIOR, BENJAMIN PYCHON, NOAH WATZWICK IN THUNDER

    Wildly gamboling in the mountains

    Stephen Dalton in The Verdict: "A religiously devout young woman surrenders herself to the carnal side of spiritual love in Swiss writer-director Carmen Jaquier’s passionate, lyrical, visually ravishing debut feature Thunder, which has just world premiered in both Toronto and San Sebastian. Drawing on the agony and ecstasy in Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), Jaquier’s feverish coming-of-age drama sometimes gets a little consumed by its own self-serious, quasi-mystical pretensions. But this is still an accomplished and original debut, rooted in worthy intentions to give voice to all those voiceless women missing from the history books for being too lustful, too disobedient, too far ahead of their time. Partly inspired by the diaries of her own great-grandmother, Jaquier infuses a handsome period canvas with a very modern attitude here. Festival acclaim and awards potential should translate into solid art-house prospects."

    Jaquier, whose hushed sweetness and reenforces her lovely visuals, has also acknowledged her admiration for Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light (2007) - itself a homage to Dreyer's Ordet, particularly for its floating camera; doubtless also for poetic, flaming skies later in the film.

    No doubt that Jaquier is excited about what she is doing. Rather than Pasolini's New Testament, one might think a bit also of D.H. Lawrence and Lady Chatterley, or Henry Miller. The journal that Elizabeth (Lilith Grasmug), the girl torn from the convent at 17 to replace her dead sister, finds and walks around reading and reciting to herself, is a celebration of religiosity and earthy sex. Mind you, before this Elizabeth has begged her father to let her return to the convent. She seems to know the atmosphere of this quiet summery world just lends itself to sexual experimentation, for her.

    After Elizabeth is back home and has raked some grass, the film gives itself over to its erotic temptations spurred by her late sister's found journal. Not much further is done to define the mundane lifestyle of the poor Swiss village, except we know it's strictly Catholic, and news of impropriety travels fast. Indeed the deceased sister has been erased from local records. When Elizabeth asks about her sister, her mother (Sabine Timoteo) cuts her short with "We don't speak of her in this house." The Curé (Marco Calamandrei) is more explicit: "We do not pray for the Devil’s spawn here," he proclaims. Her younger sisters, Adele (Diana Gervalla) and Paule (Lou Iff), are dqually sworn not to speak of the family stain.

    Elizabeth encounters three boys she used to know (Mermoz Melchior, Benjamin Python, Noah Watzlawick), who've gone well through puberty while she was in the convent. There they are now, ready, and apparently always together. In case we have any doubt about their impulses, they're pleasuring themselves all in a row when she first sees them again. Later, after the self-tutelage Elizabeth acquires from the pointedly named Innocente's diary, she is seen in closeup quietly gamboling naked with all three boys. It's idyllic if implausible, but also beautifully done.

    We have to understand that the diary is a game changer, and sisters are alike. This film is indeed consumed by its "self-serious, quasi-mystical pretensions," also in the same breath by its fantasy of overt sexuality experienced spontaneously in a highly conservative 1900 Swiss mountain village. Mysticism and magic realism blend in this idealized vision.

    Jacquier seems to fudge things toward the end. Is Elizabeth going to be sent to a particularly severe Italian convent? Or is she getting to marry one of the boys, with the blessing of her parents (Sabine Timoteo, François Revaclier)? Or is she doomed to be wandering in a winter wasteland like an Anselm Kiefer painting while her two young sisters Paule and Adèle (Lou Iff, Diana Gervalla) cry out to the heavens? Perhaps all of the above.

    The fact remains, this is a beautiful film, whose hushed atmosphere much of the way through makes one watch with bated breath for what will happen next.

    Thunder/Foudre, 90 mins., in French, debuted at Locarno in August and TIFF/ Toronto Sept. 10, 2022, directly followed by San Sebastián, followed by Zurich, Busan, Rome and other festivals. Its US theatrical release was Oct. 25, 2023. French theatrical release coming Mar. 6, 2024.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-25-2023 at 11:44 PM.

  2. #2
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    I forgot to mention that Thunder/Foudre is this year's Swiss submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar.

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