17 July 2009


Written by Published in Issue 16 - Wisdom Read 1721 times

French Director Ursula Meier’s feature debut Home illustrates the inner voyage of a family whose peaceful existence is threatened when a seemingly abandoned stretch of motorway is reopened, only metres from their secluded house.

Not so much a story as a sort of romanticised allegory, Meier portrays the stationary, interior journey that unfolds within one family as hundreds of others pass them by. With a continuous stream of unfazed onlookers, glancing at an oddity from inside the safety of their own passing vehicles, the film’s viewer is able to pause their own journey to observe another’s, as if through a magnifying glass.

Perhaps the most compelling attribute of Home is the way Meier has transformed a seemingly mundane script into a captivatingly artistic and original piece of cinematography. She manages to contrast the natural beauty of rolling countryside with the stark, industrial invasion of a roaring, polluting motorway while simultaneously transforming her characters. With rigorous attention to small details, psychological battles are communicated through physical means. The addition of rigid, black lace-up boots to Marthe’s flowing summer dress as the motorway opens, and the gradual neglect of appearance – and finally, clothing in general – as resignation sets in, can be compared to Judith’s reformed and laundered appearance as she revisits the scene of destruction after her escape.

It is not only the characters that manifest Meier’s thought processes; the set itself exudes apparent inspirations, from film noir to modern art. One example is how the offbeat family environment becomes incredibly surreal when the father decides to brick up all the windows and doors to escape the hum of traffic. With the family condemned to self-inflicted imprisonment, dressed only in beachwear and surviving under artificial lights and cooling fans, the rooms of their house metamorphose into the destructive conceptualism of a Jeff Wall photograph. Similarly, the geometric stillness, and the use of light in the later scenes, enhance the psychological focus on the house’s inhabitants, calling to mind an Edward Hopper painting.

A cathartic ending sees the camera pass by the family as if in mutually agreed liberation. The viewer is now free to continue with their own journey. Yet the resonating question remains: what really makes a home, a home?

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