Dispatches from the Venice Film Festival: Amanda
Amanda, directed by Mikhaël Hers, was presented in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival — that features films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trend in international cinema. This movie is a very profound and delicate cinematic journey through mourning, focusing on characters that often may be neglected in film: a niece and her uncle.
David (Vincent Lacoste) who gets by doing odd jobs, is very close to his sister Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb), a single mother of the 7-year old Amanda (Isaure Multrier). The 24-year old uncle meets Léna (Stacy Martin), who has just moved up to Paris, and falls in love. But his romance, as much as his free-spirited life are brutally interrupted with the sudden death of his sister during a horrific terrorist attack. Beyond the shock, and the pain, David finds himself alone with his young niece Amanda to care for.
Although the attack in Paris that Mikhaël Hers depicts clearly echoes the Bataclan episode that occurred in November 13, 2015, this film does not focus on what cinema or the media has so far portrayed about victims of terrorism — that is their violent slaughter and the preparation leading to the event. We never see the mutilated body of Sandrine, but we follow her family’s aftermath. This is an aspect that is often ignored in storytelling, especially in the mundane. It’s the little things that afflict a mourning daughter and brother, such as a toothbrush or nail polish of the departed, that one might prefer to eliminate from sight, whereas another might need to cling on to as a loving memory.
Furthermore this particular story shows the difficulties of such a responsibility as family. David is a young man who is entitled to live his age in freedom, but life puts him at a threshold. He finds himself taking charge of his young niece Amanda after his sister’s death, going through a personal and social ordeal that this kind of attack constitutes.
Mikhaël Hers does not indulge into melodrama or voyeurism, but portrays a universal story of loss, that could be taking place in any country or era, and is brilliantly contextualized within contemporary Paris. The acting is outstanding, the entire cast (Vincent Lacoste, Isaure Multrier Stacy Martin, Ophélia Kolb, Marianne Basler, Jonathan Cohen, Greta Scacchi) is authentic in expressing the universality of grief and human connection, on a daily basis through simple chores. As the director said: “My aim was capturing trivial, everyday things and lending them beauty, lyricism and poetry.”