Taiga snow forest is an excellent place to avoid people. It is so remote, even
Putin leaves it be. The forbidding frozen terrain attracts a disillusioned
Frenchman in the midst of an early midlife crisis and a Russian poacher wanted
for more serious crimes in Safy Nebbou’s In
the Forest of Siberia (trailer here), which screens during this year’s
Rendezvous with French Cinema in New York.
had visited Lake Baikal years before and it apparently made quite an
impression. Sick of the rat race and his soulless social life, he has chucked
it all in and purchased a hovel-cabin on its shores. Winter is fast
approaching, but he is convinced the resulting silence and solitude will be
spiritually cleansing. Maybe so, but it will also be cold and harsh. Mere survival
will be much harder than Teddy ever expected, but a mysterious Russian outlaw
will provide some key assistance at crucial moments. Aleksei is not exactly the
trusting sort—partly due to the murder conviction hanging over his head—but a
friendship will slowly develop between them. After all, they are the only out
there, except for the occasional unwanted visitor.
Forest looks and sounds
terrific thanks to cinematographer Gilles Porte, who just soaks up the icy
vistas, and composer Ibrahim Maalouf, whose eerie ECM-ish score evokes a powerful
feeling of desolation. His sound follows in the tradition of Tomasz Stanko and
Enrico Rava, but the Beirut-born, Paris-based trumpeter also incorporates
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, which are rather apt for the
northern Eurasian setting.
Personnaz always looks like he is weak from hunger and suffering chills, so
casting him in the lead makes a certain degree of sense. He is totally
convincing when Teddy is in over his head, but somewhat less so as he starts to
acclimate to the extreme environment. However, Evgeniy Sidikhin is an immediately
credible and intriguing presence as the rugged but haunted Aleksei.
& David Oelhoffen (who helmed and adapted Far from Men) keep the narrative business simple with their
adaptation of Sylvain Tesson’s autobiographical novel, privileging sense of
place and its effect on the psyche above all else. It is impressive in the
moment, but the spell quickly breaks once the screening ends. Recommended for
fans of Maalouf and those intrigued by its harsh, exotic setting, In the Forest of Siberia screens this
Sunday (3/5) and the following Thursday (3/9) at the Walter Reade, as part of
the 2017 Rendezvous with French Cinema.
Labels: French Cinema, Ibrahim Maalouf, Rendezvous with French Cinema '17, Siberia