Mittlemeer review: Marseille Film Festival 2019 winner
A collaboration between French filmmaker Jean-Marc Chapoulie and writer Nathalie Quintaine, Mittelmeer is an intriguing project that hones in on the overabundance of CCTV cameras that constantly record our environments by using online footage gathered from a series of strategically placed cameras on beaches, hotels and harbours along the coast of the Mediterranean sea. This award-winning feature, intended as a homage of Jean-Daniel Pollet’s 1963 experimental film Méditerranée, whisks viewers away on their own Mediterranean adventure – one that’s full of beauty, playfulness and insight.
On a purely conceptual level, this experimental project is utterly fascinating. The picture, comprised almost entirely of raw surveillance footage, eloquently constructs a cinematic bricolage of various sights and sounds that paint a visually impressive and true-to-life portrait of the scenic vistas surrounding the sea, consequently breaking down the barriers between countries and cultures and unifying them through their connection to the water.
Chapoulie approaches his film with an astute playfulness and self-awareness of its “boring” subject matter for added flair. In addition to clever match cuts and colour changes, the director’s implementation of sound is truly remarkable and is what gives the feature much of its personality and humour. While the music and cartoonish sound effects are delightful, it’s the disembodied conversations between Chapouile and his son that imbues the images onscreen with unfiltered humanity and innocence, which, combined with the personal accounts and philosophical ponderings of Quintaine, elevate the piece beyond excellence.
It’s only when the film’s train of thought verges off course to examine bigger issues surrounding migration and the protests of Syrian activists that the wheels begin to come off. Not because the creators have nothing interesting to say on these issues, but because there’s simply not enough focus given to them, beyond the occasional anecdote, for these points to become substantial enough to hit their mark. More strangely, though, the inclusion of the non-surveillance footage of these sequences break the project’s own rules.
A conceptually fascinating and visually rich cinematic undertaking, Mittelmeer is a highly intriguing and equally humorous journey across the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean coast.
Mittlemeer does not have a UK release date yet.