Tuesday, 23 August 2016

REVIEW - VALLEY OF LOVE (GUILLAUME NICLOUX)


Guillaume Nicloux's little exercise in filmmaking finally comes to look very large indeed. It's a slight, self-aware, arguably even self-obsessed study, concerned not so much with a wider world, here only vaguely alluded to, as it is with its own state of being. The grief of two distant parents in the wake of their son's death would surely manifest itself as such, and Valley of Love immerses us in the peculiar particulars of their combined confusion. Nicloux's chief creative contribution is to strip his film to a few components, and to blow them up to extreme proportions - the result is an innately stylized work, and eventually crucially so. In the solipsism of these characters, and thus of the film that is so devoted to them, Nicloux must forge an artistic identity unique to that film, one that arises organically from those few, strange components. If its meaning may be negligible in the context of that wider world which Valley of Love so insistently rejects, it's evidently of enormous meaning to the characters - they find what sense and solace they can in their comforting disconnect, discovering at last peace with the world once they embrace the changes it has forced upon them. Grief is a retreat into a bottomless blackness of despair; Valley of Love escapes from this blackness into a fascinating landscape entirely its own. The oddities with which Nicloux constructs this new landscape are not as intangible as you might predict: the film has a cheeky, surprising sense of humour, and an intelligence and sensitivity in working unexpected, unflattering details into its characters that's even more surprising. An unusual, minimalist work with maximum impact.