Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Hedgehog: French Fate

Director/screenwriter Mona Achache has created an unusual ensemble of characters in the highly introspective film The Hedgehog (Le hérisson). It is tight, well acted work. The unifying element is the setting: a plush apartment building where they all reside.

We view this claustrophobic world through two lenses. Firstly, 11 year-old Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) produces a film-with-in-a-film as she videos her life in preparation for her 12th birthday suicide. The rest of the Josse family is just as dysfunctional, with mother Solange (Anne Brochet) leading the way.

Our second point of view is through the eyes of Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko), the 54 year-old concierge. Renée lives in a tiny space compared with the residents though it’s luxury compared to the local vagrant Jean-Pierre (Jean-Luc Porraz). The cluttered books and memorabilia in her flat expose the richness of her inner life to her are visitors.

This invisible widow becomes the central person, not just in Paloma’s life. New resident and widower Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa) brings unexpected romance to her dreary existence.

The somewhat bizarre climax has its own inevitability. Only the French would call it a happy ending. Nevertheless the dramatic conclusion is a strong affirmation of life as much as it is a comment on fate and death.

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