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GHENT 2021

Review: The Hive

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- Christophe Hermans delivers a sensitive and heady first feature film revolving around three sisters weighed down by their mother’s mental illness

Review: The Hive
Mara Taquin, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Ludivine Sagnier and Sophie Breyer in The Hive

By way of The Hive [+see also:
interview: Christophe Hermans
film profile
]
, unveiled last week at Rome Film Fest and revisited this week at Film Festival Ghent, Christophe Hermans offers up a sensitive and heady first feature film about three sisters carrying the burden of their mother’s mental illness and her many associated lapses on their frail yet resolute shoulders.

Alice lives in a little cocoon with her three daughters, a veritable gynaeceum from which men seem to have absented themselves forever; an intimate place of trust where secrets are well-guarded… Too well guarded, perhaps.

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Indeed, Alice suffers from bipolar disorder, and her increasingly frequent lapses weigh heavily upon her daughters’ shoulders, especially those of Marion, the eldest, who unwittingly finds herself responsible for their entire family. She lives with a constant conflict of loyalty between the unfailing faithfulness she feels towards her mother and the frustrated solidarity she shares with her sisters whose lives she would like to spare.

Whilst the middle child, Claire, is the embodiment of rebellion, and Louise, the youngest, of carefreeness and love of family, Marion represents sacrifice. A sacrifice which seems inevitable, and which haunts her, even in her dreams of escaping elsewhere; in this case Brazil, where she yearns but also actually plans to go. It’s a trip which her mother will go so far as to hijack, taking over and smashing her daughter’s hopes of independence to smithereens.

This intensely female huis clos depicts a woman prevented from being herself and from being whole by way of an illness, and who subsequently blocks her own children. The hive - the apartment with its closed curtains - represents secrecy, the pact of silence which has passed between the bees and their queen, and which impedes their emancipation. 

When parents no longer have the capacity to set limits, how do you claim your freedom? The parent/children relationship is reversed, and the latter must pull themselves together amidst the ruins of their parents’ faltering presence. It’s an unstable edifice only held together by love.

In this hushed universe, well-served by a soft and delicate approach towards imaging, tensions begin to rise and Marion’s dreams are torn apart. Alice’s presence is a threat to her daughters, while her absence is a source of pain. To convey their predicament, the director concentrates the story within their apartment, whose atmosphere starts out as one of real complicity but which ultimately goes on to feel increasingly suffocating.

It’s a larger-than-life family that the filmmaker has decided to depict, played with incredible veracity and sincerity by four natural actresses who touch upon a certain truth. Ludivine Sagnier dares to step into the role of this woman ravaged by illness, and caught between manic crises and moments of pure sincerity. Sophie Breyer, a heroine who carries the film’s family as well as its story, hints at the yearnings for a carefree life which hide beneath her ironclad exterior. Mara Taquin, full of character and determination, embodies rebellion, the girl who goes out and who spreads her wings, even if it means burning them, while Bonnie Duvauchelle plays the teenager who’s still on the threshold of childhood, and who, for a time, finds herself happily ensconced in the family unit and surrounded by unconditional love.

The Hive is produced by Frakas Productions (Belgium) in co-production with Avenue B Productions (France). International sales are entrusted to Reel Suspects, with the movie set for release in Belgium in the spring, distributed by O’Brother Distribution.

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(Translated from French)

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