Les Eblouis (The Dazzled) French Film Festival at Home

Things being as they are, film festivals face disruption as cinemas open or close in line with government policy to combat the virus. The French Film Festival, which is UK wide, probably faces more problems than most. However, they have programmed a festival within the festival – fff@home allows you to stream a fine selection of films to watch at home.

Tickets are on sale from 13th November, with an early bird discount of 10% if you book by 21st November.

Having just seen The Dazzled, the closing film in the at home festival, I get the impression that the quality of the films available is very high indeed. First time Director Sarah Suco, who was, I understand, brought up in a close-knit religious community herself, delivers a portrait of a family initially drawn together then torn apart through their involvement with the cult-like Dove Community.

The story is told from the point of view of 14 year old Camille (an award-nominated performance by Celeste Brunnquell) whose family join the Dove commune after her mother Christine (Camille Cottin) who obviously feels a void in her life, accepts an invitation to attend a meal there.

Her involvement immediately becomes the driving force in her life, she accepts the position of their book-keeper, and demands that the family sell their home, give the money to the commune and move in with them. Her schoolteacher husband Frederic (Eric Caravaca), a man so wet he makes the North Sea look like an arid desert, complies in spite of his reservations about the cult and its leader The Shepherd (an extremely creepy Jean-Pierre Darroussin).

At first, all seems well, especially for Christine, who is given the support system she needs, there is a superficially joyous air about the place, communal meals, singing, dancing and worship. But the family, having given up everything, are subject to the Shepherd’s rules; Camille has to give up her acrobatic training, dress according to the Shepherd’s rules, and, of course, no mobile phones. Such is how a closed community functions, existing in the world without being a part of it.

And should any member of his flock display signs of rebellion or resistance, the Shepherd performs an exorcism of sorts that reveals episodes of supposed abuse in their past, and forbids them contact with their families outwith the commune.

Camille, of course, is a ready made rebel in these circumstances. We see through her eyes the effect this is having on her younger siblings, with no contact with their grandparents or friends. She stashes clothes to change into before arriving at school, and secretly meets her boyfriend Boris (Spencer Bogaert). Increasingly unhappy, and more and more worried about her family, she is at a loss as to how to do something about the situation until… well, I’m not about to give away the ending.

But this is a fine study in how the vulnerable can be persuaded to put their affairs in the hands of those who appear to offer help and support, and surrender their lives to the notion of hope and comfort.

Highly recommended viewing.

Jim Welsh

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