Horse Thieves divide
by Anne Feuillère
The only Belgian representative at Cannes this year, Micha Wald is back in Critics’ Week, where his short Alice et moi won him the Small Golden Rail three years ago.
Today, he is presenting his debut feature Horse Thieves [+see also:
film profile] at the 46th Critics’ Week, while his producer is defending at the Producers’ Club (see news) his upcoming project, Simon Konianski, a comedy like Alice et moi.
Horse Thieves (see news) has not disappointed as it has left no one indifferent: some are calling it a masterpiece while others felt no love for the story. A far cry from comedy, the period adventure film set in a fictional 19th century Ukraine is a daring first film that looks like a western and, like all westerns, has tragic tones.
Divided into three acts, Horse Thieves first describes how Jakub and Vladimir join the Cossacks, a world of violent and bitter men. In contrast are the free and lonely brothers Roman and Elias who live in the forest and make a living stealing horses.
Each older brother is bound to the younger through complex and interconnected feelings of guilt and alienating responsibility. Their confrontation, which results in the death of Vladimir, sets in motion the film’s third act, a revengeful hunt until the final battle between the two older brothers (magnificently played by Adrien Jolivet and Grégoire Colin). Silent, sombre and wild, they are the opposite of the innocent younger siblings (François-René Dupont and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet).
The film starts off in the mud and twilight of the Cossack camp before heading to an undergrowth of an endless forest. Through paintings, ellipses and acceleration, Wald scrutinises the tension of faces and bodies, the violence and wildness of the human being immersed in his environment. Lyrical, Horse Thieves gets lumbered with the material that it films and carries, tense and refined, towards the light.
The film was backed by Eurimages and the MEDIA Programme, Wallimage, the National Lottery, the Centre du cinéma et de l'audiovisuel de la Communauté française de Belgique, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) advances on receipts, the Centre Val de Loire, SODEC and the tax shelter (through Inver Invest, an intermediate agency created by Versus Productions and Les Films du Fleuve).
(Translated from French)
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