“From the Land of the Moon” (“Mal de Pierres”) was the best selection I saw at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series in New York City. In the film, Marion Cotillard gives a masterful performance as an extremely romantic woman with thwarted longings.
This film is impressively directed by Nicole Garcia who has acted in several films like the classic “Mon Oncle d’Amerique” (1980) and “La Petite Lili” (2003).
Gabrielle (Cotillard) is driving with her husband and son to an event where her son will perform at a piano competition. Gabrielle suddenly recognizes an address their car passes, and suddenly gets out. The film flashes back to a younger Gabrielle In 1950’s rural France.
Cotillard gives Gabrielle a passionate intensity, making for a gripping film. Gabrielle remains unfulfilled. Her mother (Brigitte Roüan) says her daughter has her “head in the clouds”. After an improper attraction from Gabrielle, her mother arranges a marriage with José (Àlex Brendemühl), a worker on the family farm. The marriage is described as “bought you off”. Gabrielle looks dazed after the wedding ceremony.
The screenplay, co-written by Garcia, develops sympathy for José as he tries vainly to understand or relate to his wife.
Gabrielle visits Switzerland for a rest cure. She becomes intensely drawn to Lieutenant André Sauvage (Louis Garrrel, “The Dreamers” (2003)), a sensitive veteran also in the sanatorium for care. He plays the piano. Marion’s developing relationship with André brings a fulfillment that has been lacking in her life. Andre will continue to dominate her life. The screenplay takes some unexpected twists.
The photogenic scenery of Switzerland, emphasizes the healing aspects of the location. Director Nicole Garcia effectively builds tension from the raw emotion of Cotillard’s portrayal. Garcia also elicits fine performances from her supporting cast. Garcia’s other films as director have had notable performances. Her “Place Vendôme” (1998) contained one of Catherine Deneuve’s best.
After the film screening, Nicole Garcia discussed “From the Land of the Moon”. She said that the film is a free adaptation of a book by an Italian novelist set in Sardinia. She added that the subject “fit my manner”.
Garcia described the main character as “a woman who wants what everyone denies her”. She said that Marion Cotillard is “one of the very best”, and the “best” actress for the part, which is “particular to what she does”. She added that Cotillard brings something “unpredictable” to her characterization. Garcia described the casting as a “great actor” in a “great role.” She added that the strongest roles are ”roles that reveal as we go along.”
Garcia added that she wants “characters to be unpredictable” and that as a director, it is “nearly a duty to forget the script and invent something else.”
Garcia said that some people may see the pain Gabrielle puts her husband through, and “may dislike her, I hope not.”
Her background as an actor is the “strongest” thing that Garcia believes she brings to directing, to “show actors” aspects of their characters, adding “I don’t tell (them) how to say” the dialog.
When asked to explain the title of her film, Garcia declined, adding that unlike her colleague director Francois Ozon (“Frantz”) who told her he has approval of foreign titles of his films, she “inherited” the title. She added that a critic told her the landscape in the final scene “looks like the desert, like the moon.”