Berlin 2013: ‘The Meteor’ review


French-Canadian director François Delisle’s fourth film, The Meteor (Le météore, 2013), is an avant-garde exploration of isolation that quite rightly appears in the Berlin Film Festival’s Forum section. Eschewing conventional narrative techniques, the film includes not a single line of dialogue or actual human interaction and instead attempts to delve deep into its characters via a series of confessional monologues. These are set to abstract imagery that is sometimes juxtaposed with, and sometimes an affirmation of, the words being spoken. The scenario as the film opens is that Pierre (Delisle himself) is currently serving a prison sentence for manslaughter.

A heavily intoxicated spin after a party saw him hit and kill a cyclist in Pierre’s car. He didn’t stick around and was eventually convicted on multiple counts. That judgement did not just have a disastrous effect on his own life, but also those of his mother (Jacqueline Courtemanche) and his ex-wife, Suzanne (Noemie Godin-Vigneau). Through a series of vignettes rotating between the trio – and including odd asides from a young drug dealer and a prison guard – the film seeks to study the imprisonment that each of them suffers as a result of his reckless actions.

Beginning with seemingly ponderous reflective musings overlaying shots of waves crashing, The Meteor’s opening third feels worryingly hollow and pretentious. Whilst the film is certainly one for arthouse audiences, those concerns soon tail off; the ephemeral style belies its deeper penetration. As the runtime wears on, each deftly-chosen image combine to create an incredibly textured and tangible sense of these characters who we never actually meet in the traditional sense – a man for whom time stands palpably still, and a lost love represents both his hope and despair. As he delivers his confessions, his mind is preoccupied with freedom – a soaring bird, rolling clouds, the swell of the surf etc.

His mother just passes the time until her next visit, or her car’s next oil change, growing acutely aware of her impending departure. She knows that she’ll see out her days in a grim tower block and without ever seeing her only son a free man again. His ex-wife, painfully trying to wrench free of his grasp and forge a life for herself has her progress constantly curtailed by the very memory of him. By the climax, the apparently estranged strands are woven together but by this point, the audience his almost forgotten the unique form.

Despite not possessing any real narrative direction, interplay, or even physical performance in any great deal, Delisle has crafted a film with an aura that slowly permeates the viewer. Forget plot – it’s all about perception – and if you manage to tune into its frequency, The Meteor really is something quite mesmeric.

The 2013 Berlin Film Festival runs from 7-17 February. For more of our Berlinale coverage, simply follow this link.

Ben Nicholson