Provincial life, with its greyness, rituals and the need to escape of those who live there, has always held an aching, yet captivating cinematographic appeal. This was proven once more this year with Acciaio
by Stefano Mordini. But it was also true for another film, projected during the closing of Venice Days: Crawl
by Frenchman Hervé Lasgouttes
. The film evokes the subdued reality of a small town in Brittany through a meant-to-be but complicated love story. A debut piece, which thanks to its atmosphere and strong narrative voice won the Europa Cinemas Label
as best European film presented at Venice Days.
Young Martin (Swann Arlaud, also in Venice this year with L'Homme qui rit) faces feelings of emptiness, loss and lack of objectives. Having lost his mother, he lives with his old, sick father (Jean-Marie Fren), and survives thanks to odd jobs and his own street smarts. When his eyes fall on Gwen (Nina Meurisse) during a night out, it is instant love. She works for a fish business, but when she gets off, she puts her wetsuit on and swims in the open sea, working towards her dream to become a professional swimmer and leave for Mexico. Gwen's projects unexpectedly collapse when she discovers she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Corinne (Anne Marivin), Martin's sister, also discovers she is pregnant. Corinne is almost forty and this will be her third child. Neither Jean (Gilles Cohen), her husband, nor Martin take the news of their imminent fatherhood well.
With this in mind, Crawl is also an ode to women's courage: "men don't really manage very well in my film," admits Lasgouttes, "while women, especially when they are expecting, know exactly what direction to take. Men's journeys are more fluid and chaotic. Which is what I wanted: slightly tragic male characters." These men are trapped in a harsh social system: "Brittany is a strong and rough region of fishermen," continues the director. "There are many men like Martin, tormented, confused. People in Brittany drink a lot."
Gwen's determination on the other hand is epic. One of the best scenes from the film is her ploughing through the sea with large strokes. We follow her from close up and afar, eventually seeing her becoming a black dot in the middle of an expanse of blue. And every time, immersed in an environment which represents the mirage of a better life to her, we wonder whether she will ever go back.