Dir Lucile Hadzihalilovic
An unsettling and visually striking film, but I don’t know what to make of it. A lack of imagination on my part or a lack of coherence in the film? Or both?
Anyway, it’s a world where adult women (eyebrowless and clammy looking) and their young sons live on a grey, barren island, and the women are as at home in the sea as on land (la mer/la mère?). Food is a nasty seaweedy concoction and nightly medicine looks like squid ink. The boys are taken one day to a hospital/factory where – I think, because I had my eyes closed for parts – they are implanted with foetuses. One boy with more curiosity than the rest – Nicholas – draws pictures of things that he cannot have seen: cars, giraffes, Ferris wheels, a smiling woman with red hair. There is – and this is the most chilling aspect – absolutely no affection from his “mother” and the other women and he is apparently only useful as a piece of livestock. He is rescued from the island by the one nurse (with red hair) who does feel affection for him (thwarted maternal instinct?) and deposits him at a neighbouring island, which is all bright red flares from an oil refinery. Is this a mechanical, masculine world of oil, steel and pollution? Has he come through puberty and lost the gender fluidity of childhood? Is there any meaning at all?
And what of the title? Is this a species we have evolved into: women who are returning to the sea and reproduce asexually? Or is an alternative world where we evolved from the sea and bypassed the tree stage? What’s with the red starfish? Isn’t it seahorses where the males carry the eggs?
It also made me think about people selling their organs for transplants, surrogate mothers, and the way we raise animals for food – even free-range, like Nicholas.
So, plenty of questions and no answers. But interesting. It took me a long while to banish the images from my head before I could get to sleep.