A MOI SEULE / COMING HOME
France, 2012, 91 minutes, Colour.
Agathe Bonitzer, Reda Kateb.
Directed by Frederic Videau.
In recent years, there have a number of horrifying stories about child abductions and the Basement imprisonment of the children, principally young girls. This is one of those stories, although the director says it is his own imagination based on these stories.
It doesn’t quite begin that way, or we don’t realize that this is the situation. A moody worker returns home and lifts part of the floor. A teenage girl emerges stating that he woke her. Then she runs, and continues running, hides in a bus shelter where an old poster indicates that she has been missing for a long time.
She undergoes, somewhat unwillingly, treatment in an institution. She re-connects with her divorced parents, her mother still imagining her the girl whom she lost earlier. This gives rise to flashbacks which show us the interaction and hostilities between captor and prisoner. However, the captor does not take any sexual advantage. Rather, he keeps her as a companion, cooking, caring, testing her eyes for glasses, supervising dictation for homework. At the time of being taken, Gaelle was ten. While Vincent is a monster in taking and holding Gaelle, he does not always act monstrously, which creates a different type of tension between the two.
Gaelle flees the institution, feeling free and knowing that she can start her life again.
This film offers sketches of the characters rather than deep portraits.
1. A film about abduction and imprisonment?
2. The French locations, the town, the factory, the countryside? The institution? The train trip? The musical score?
3. The title, the focus, the English title? Gaelle and her experience? Finding a new life?
4. The introduction to Vincent, at the site, the clashes with his fellow workers? His return home, opening up the floorboards? Gaelle coming out? Her running away, his not stopping her?
5. Gaelle, running, at the bus stop, the notice about herself and being missing? Eight years? From ten to eighteen?
6. Gaelle, meeting her mother? Going to the institution? The discussions with the psychiatrist? Her own bewilderment? Looking at the other inmates? Questioning them and herself? The meetings with her father and mother, their divorce, her mother still thinking of her as when she first was taken?
7. The flashbacks, Vincent, his treatment of Gaelle? Imprisonment? The cellar? Nicely furnished? Vincent and his not molesting Gaelle? Yet being a monster in imprisoning her? Her attempts to go free? His threats? Discipline, letting her come up to the house? The food, the comfort, his coaching her in dictation? His concern about her being a companion for life?
8. The visit of his friend, the meal, discussions, drinking together? Comment about his not marrying? Gaelle’s reaction to this evening?
9. Gaelle and her wanting to leave the institution? The memories coming back?
10. The train ride, the kindly woman buying her ticket? Her going to start a new life, a sense of freedom? A new identity?
11. The film taking up the themes of European imprisonments of young girls? The mind of the abductor? The behaviour? A film of insight and sympathy?