By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”
Lawrence Durrell, Justine
The genesis of mankind: Nude, among nature, in the darkness.
There’s nothing as essential and primal that Philippe Grandrieux has done so far with his cinema than this fifth feature: White Epilepsy (2012) is stripped of all the artifices and narrative pulses of his previous works, and focuses instead in the plausible eroticism of his method, creating a unique and rarefied atmosphere and placing his gaze on the dialogue and the alienation of the body. The downshifting of the movement, the manifestation of darkness and overbearing lightness, the use of crude nature sound are only technical manifestations of a deeper understanding of the senses; the closed diaphragm of the camera lens responds to a manifest necessity of expression.
This time, the primal erotics of Grandrieux’ art have demanded from the filmmaker that all the resources he possesses are used in a minimal, subdued way. Hence what we see is only a dance of bodies which evolves into a hint of ritual cannibalism and gory resemblance, but the implications of those images are immense. This might be Grandrieux best work so far, since all of his previous work has driven him to this: The plasticity of his films, the sensorial experience that leads to the metaphysical connotations of his physical representations, everything is here stripped to the bone. White Epilepsy is, first and foremost, an erotic experience, one of discomfort and rejection of the flesh, a plastic ritual that could easily symbolize something, but that speaks better only in the sensorial plateau of its representation.
In a moment, we see something that resembles a cannibalistic ritual, then we’re confronted to an overexposed image of a woman with blood in her mouth, an action somewhat reminiscent of Denis’ Trouble Every Day, which brings to mind the cannibalization of the other over the excesses and deviations of love. Do the two bodies consume themselves into this empty carcasse that we’re shown at the end of the film? Are these four bodies completely different and dissociated from one another? We’re left to ask ourselves beyond logic answers what was the implication of this last manifestation of Grandrieux behind the camera. Or maybe its significance is irrelevant, since all we’re left with is desolation and spleen. White Epilepsy is a film that depletes the senses, a work of art and a culmination of a process that has given us one of the most solid frameworks of work in this eternal process of reinvention of cinema.
Director: Philippe Grandrieux
Producer: Annick Lemonnier
Cinematography: Philippe Grandrieux
Cast: Hélène Rocheteau, Jean-Nicolas Dafflon, Anja Röttgerkamp, Dominique Dupuy
Sound: Corinne Thévenon