Monday, April 26, 2010

Animal Heart

Showing at the San Francisco International Film Festival: Animal Heart, directed by Séverine Cornamusaz

Synopsis from the SFIFF website:

Paul and Rosine live deep and isolated in the craggy, breathtaking Swiss Alps where they have a small dairy farm. The day-to-day work attendant on this rustic if somewhat modernized two-person operation is punishing and relentless. Life is made no easier by the fact that Paul is an emotionally stunted brute. While treating his cows as tenderly as family pets, he bullies Rosine mercilessly, both physically and verbally. She finds a few moments of pleasure when left alone to milk the cows or shimmy to the radio while making goat cheese—reveries more often than not interrupted by Paul’s crude appetites. Hints of backstory suggest what these two used to see in each other, and though Rosine remains fearful of Paul, their bond is obviously deep, melancholy and forbearing. Paul’s softer side finally surfaces when he takes the pain in Rosine’s belly as a sign she’s pregnant with what he presumes is his son. He immediately hires a Spanish laborer to take over for her on the farm. The man’s scruffy charm and insouciance slowly alter the couple’s lives in unforeseen ways, dragging Rosine into an act of defiance and Paul into confrontation with his own malevolent heart. Séverine Cornamusaz’s potent first feature is a courageously clear-eyed and forgiving look at a dysfunctional Old World marriage running headlong into the 21st century. —Tod Booth

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