Goddess of the Fireflies (La déesse des mouches à feu)
Goddess of the Fireflies is a dream-like haze, a heady combination of 90s nostalgia and reminiscing over first times. It’s a story of teenage years – with parental rebellion, drugs, sex and friendship all playing vital parts. Set in provincial Canada during the 1990s, when Kurt Cobain and Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace were at the forefront of both style and iconography, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s film is an unflinching portrait of youthful negligence; chaotic and ignorant of the fact that there is life after 16.
Kelly Depeault gives a fine performance as Catherine, a subdued 16-year-old managing to sidestep the emotional and physical brutality of her parents’ divorce. After commandeering a schoolmate’s boyfriend with little effort, Catherine has a new clique and quickly encounters the drug mescaline, known for inducing ecstatic states. It soon becomes part of Cat’s everyday routine; intoxication offers excitement and an escape from the world around her.
It’s a story that becomes a little predictable as it unfolds. After all, Goddess of the Fireflies is essentially a coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl, her friends and their discovery of sex, drugs and emotional turmoil. If the cinematography weren’t so captivating, at points it would be easy to glaze over the group’s days spent roaming around on bikes and the few flashes we get of their school. But it’s realistic, and the film challenges you not to associate with the burgeoning hedonism that comes from having nothing to do.
Despite its predictability, it’s certainly not clichéd. Though the setting in the 90s offers a slight detachment, it’s more truthful and relevant than is perhaps immediately visible. As the film draws to a close, the group are forced to face the real world – and it doesn’t bring the lofty euphoria they’re used to.
Goddess of the Fireflies is undoubtedly a story you already know, but it’s told with depths that you won’t have seen before. Visceral and visually stunning both in cinematography and performance, the film will undoubtedly be a highlight of this year’s Berlinale.
Goddess of the Fireflies (La déesse des mouches à feu) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.