The Father: the critic who lost his mind


Florian Zeller is definitely a man of many talents. After writing several beautiful novels, he exploded on the world boards with his plays and especially thanks to his trilogy The Mother, The Father then The Son. The second part, Le Père, has received dythirambic reception from the press, prompting the scriptwriter to turn himself into a screenwriter and director to adapt it to cinema with The Father. The result, amazingly and wonderfully, received two Oscars, best adapted screenplay and best actor for Anthony Hopkins, and was unmistakable in theaters.

There’s always something scary about a theatrical adaptation on paper. Even more so when they are signed by their own author. The final example to date (the most telling) might be Edmond by Alexis Michalik, an adaptation that’s hilarious and fun, but can rarely leave shallow film theater. Therefore, we can fear the same pitfalls for Florian Zeller’s The Father, even though the excellent echo has accompanied him since his visit to the 2020 Sundance Festival.

However, this is to detract from his great feedback because from the very first minute of recording his fear quickly fades giving way to an excellent job. Florian Zeller may have started in cinematography staging, the Frenchman achieved an impressive tour de force with his first feature film that tells the story of Anthony, 81, and whose memory is unavoidably shaky.

Far from getting caught up in another drama about memory loss (Still Alice, Love) or old age altogether (Nebraska, Love again), the feature film quickly turns into a veritable mental maze for every viewer. With the exception of its opening shot after daughter Anthony (Olivia Colman), The Father will focus almost exclusively on the old man’s perception. Thus, the story turns into a real riddle for the main character and the audience who live events through his eyes, through lost references and therefore through many errors and false certainties.

Florian Zeller then plays admirably with his performances to make his mind maze truly a maze that seems impossible to get out of, where each scene becomes more and more vague, confusing. Between travel plays, close-ups, long-range shots … he manages to convey the panic, fear, and doom of his hero to the audience not by showing it, but by making him fully feel and experience the situation.

It’s hard, as the film progresses, not to fall into confusion and not lose track of events. The sequence follows one another, multiplied misunderstandings and misunderstandings occur, continue, and finally never go away. If, in any film, losing a coherent common thread to the audience is logically a failure, Father plays right on this idea to provoke a true cinematographic experience.

The gameplay of the track is set with elements of decoration (closed, non-exclusive, suffocating; this door), story construction (distant but similar sequences that overlap) and the presence of multiple characters to completely reshuffle the cards. Thanks to Yorgos Lamprinos’ hallucinatory work, montage comes to break down the barriers between reality and illusion, overlapping memories and beliefs, visions and reality, dreams and nightmares… to connect distant sequences, memories and spirit creations. Obviously, there is no point in trying to understand everything or trying to relate everything.

A feature film may be very rich and very well documented about senility and Alzheimer’s – anyone who has experienced degeneration of a loved one will probably cry – it does not aim to provide a rational answer to this. unspeakable, even illusory. On the other hand, the logic of this highly inventive treasure hunt is not a matter of the mind and can be found elsewhere: in the heart, in the emotions, in the past.

Drowning audiences into Anthony’s mind, Florian Zeller’s (and co-written with Christopher Hampton), which at times plays to the codes of psychological thrillers, essentially leads to a heartwarming ode to humanity, where we don’t come out unscathed. . This game with the subjectivity of the main characters is very disturbing and very effective, and carries a solid plot about humans and their fragility.

The frailty embodied wonderfully by Anthony Hopkins, who didn’t steal a single second of the Oscar for best actor for his performance, is probably the biggest role of his career (over 25 minutes of his appearance in The Silence of the Lambs). Because if Florian Zeller caught the ambiguity of his characterevery time, thanks to the subtlety and serenity of the English game, emotions come alive.

Between anger, unexpected kindness, loss of sight, sudden absence and also fear of being manipulated (son-in-law, nanny, daughter, his watch…), Anthony’s character goes through all the states. soulful (even childish) and therefore offers a large (even if discreet) emotional palette. Undoubtedly the fear of abandonment experienced by the old man, let alone most touching, he who has no real (and true) landmark other than his music and who is bewitching I think I still hear from the opera of the pearl anglers by Georges Bizet, source comfort and healing for Anthony, but such moving words.

Allocating the sole award to Anthony Hopkins would be unfair to the players around him (Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell were great) and Olivia Colman in particular. The Oscar-winning actress from La Favorite, once again, excels in a very ambivalent role caught between the love of a loving girl, the distraction of her father’s lack of recognition, the hatred of this uncontrollable situation and above all despair. unchanged in the face of the decay of loved ones. Damage.