Les Gardiennes (The Guardians)London Film Festival 2017
7th October 2017 8.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
9th October 2017 2.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
The latest release from French Actor/Director Xavier Beauvois, The Guardians, or Les Gardiennes, adds itself to the writer’s list of lavish film titles. Is there more to this movie than the title suggests? Of course. We can always count on Beauvois to present a project built upon existential foundations that embrace the serene authenticity of life. Subtract the soundtrack, slow the pacing, accentuate solitary lives and what do we have? The answer: a piece of film true to reality.
Opening on a still and body-littered battlefield in 1915, The Guardians is set in the French countryside, at the Paridier Farm. Constant (Nicolas Giraud) is a French soldier on leave from the Great War, and is home to visit his parents and family at the farm. His arrival and departure are swift and brief, giving his relatives little understanding of what his experiences are on the front line – perhaps an attempt to save them from worry. With Constant, his brother George (Cyril Descours) and brother-in-law Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin) away on duty, the farm is short of hands, and the Paridier matriarch, Hortense, played by the wonderful, stone-cold Nathalie Baye, must find a new worker for the harvest. Enter Francine (Iris Bry), a sensitive orphan of high intelligence. As Francine adjusts to her new employment, war rages on in the background, creating an ever-evolving environment for all at the farm.
Initially, the most striking element of the movie is the sheer lack of music. Considering most pictures in the modern day have soundtracks, it is markedly noticeable when there is a lack of one. Beauvois has crafted The Guardians to focus entirely on the relationships of the characters, and the audio aspect of the feature is blessed with a completely “au naturel” experience. Staying loyal to classical film, there are long lingering scenes of women at work in the fields, engaged in extremely mundane jobs, but accepting life as it is. The problem with shots like these is that they may not resonate with today’s cinematic audiences, where attention spans are shorter. Do we really want to spend a few hours of our lives watching other people live theirs at the same pace? Perhaps, but there is more to The Guardians than that.
One such thing being the debut performance of Iris Bry as Francine. The young actress without doubt plays a central figure in the rise of the independent woman and future French generation. This being said, the beautiful thing about The Guardians is that there is a surreal subtlety in the film’s running elements, which will leave viewers in quiet thought as the credits role. The First World War was a struggle for all, not just for those fighting in the trenches. Back home there is a battle for freedom for everyone, and only the strong will eventually emerge stronger from it.
Les Gardiennes (The Guardians) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.