The woods take on a life of their own in this eerie mix of fantasy and horror. Gerard Depardieu plays a weary hunter wandering through the verdant woods. First he loses his dog and then he loses his way. He continues wandering deeper and deeper until the woods become foreboding and he discovers strange creatures that emerge from the mystical darkness. Once he loses his phone and his gun, the last objects anchoring him in reality, he begins to slip into the fantastical world around him.
As in Nicloux’s most recent work, Valley of Love, there is a pervasive and disquieting atmosphere of the unknown danger, an uncertain future. The audience and the characters are united in a powerful sense of confusion, but both feel the urge to continue down the ever-darkening path for a way out. Depardieu’s physique is cunningly used for dramatic effect as his form swells to ridiculous proportions throughout the film, only adding to the depraved fairytale imagery. The sound design reinforces the hunter’s palpable fear as we hear every branch crack under his feet, every hiss in the darkness and every anxious breath in his chest. Depardieu’s performance carries the film as he passes from bemusement to bewilderment and everything in between. When he discovers a naked women in a clearing, he is so relieved to see another human, but she is not what she seems. This discovery would be an opportunity to take a turn into fairytale fable but Nicloux doesn’t take the bait. Instead, he leaves many questions unanswered and maintains the film’s bare-bones narrative.
Nicloux attempts to remedy a wafer-thin plot by using a loop structure, repeating narrative events, but this wears through quickly and makes the film little more than a creative exercise at times. Despite it’s simplicity, The End is a chilling, experimental fairytale that will raise eyebrows.
The End does not have a UK release date yet.
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