Montreal Nouveau 2021 Review: LA CONTEMPLATION DU MYSTÈRE, The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Editor, Canada; Montréal, Canada (@bonnequin)
Montreal Nouveau 2021 Review: LA CONTEMPLATION DU MYSTÈRE, The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Our parents often have friends that we only vaguely know; rituals they kept that seems weird to us; and often, if we are estranged from them or separated by distance, a life that we cannot comprehend. Add into that a parent who lives in a small town/rural community and engages in a pretty odd activity, and there is a story ripe with mystery and danger.

Quebéçois director Alberic Aurtenech explores the strange rituals and beliefs of a rural community in his feaure debut La Contemplation du mystère, an evocative and dark film about a young man making dangerous discoveries of his deceased father, the community with secrets to hide, and the strange hunt that haunts the forest.

Éloi (Emmanuel Schwartz) has been called back to his deceased father's town, to take part in a strange tribute, and finds himself being made a member of the local hunting society. Hunting is popular in this area, and the men pride themselves on their skill. But it seems the only ones with skills are the sole woman hunter, Diane (Sarah Jeanne Labrosse), and a man only referred to as The Indian (though he is not Indigenous), spoken of with reverence, and more than a little fear and hatred.

Éloi's father Lambert's home exterior is decorated with antlers; Éloi presumes these are from his kills, but as he learns, his father wasn't a good hunter. These were all gifts from The Indian, and both The Indian and Lambert were obsessed with the legend of The Monarch, a great stag that they believed could give them eternal life. On the one hand, Éloi has little time for this town, or his father's memory; on the other, he becomes mildly interested in Diane, and starts making discoveries about lies around how his father died, making him rightfully angry and suspicious, and he starts to make things difficult for the other hunters.

This is the Quebéc of the first white invaders, fur trappers and settlers, who combined their own superstitions with what they found in this remote land. Their patron saint is Hubert, who advocated for humane hunting; and yet, Éloi finds himself at odds with a community who seems to need him for something, but will try to keep him in his place. Éloi tries his amateur hand at hunting, and his frequent use of psychotropic drugs, combined with the images found in his father's journals, and his nighttime wanderings in the forest, enhance this mysticism to the point of insanity.

The richness of the cinematography, the beauty of the fall colours combined with the stillness of the day and the frightening sound of coyotes at night, makes for a combination ripe for fantastical and dangerous journeys. Aurtenech puts us in someone at Éloi's perspective, but not so much that he entirely gains our sympathy; really that goes to forest and the animals, used and abused, so that it feels natural that some avenging spirit like a giant stag should be their protector, as opposed to any human.

La Contemplation du mystère exposes the cracks in the system of ritual and patriarchy, those who try to contain and control, the clash of the modern and the mythic, and how folklore should be heeded rather than ignored. And maybe sometimes it's best to let the spirit take over, rather than fall prey to the demons.

La contemplation du mystre

  • Alberic Aurteneche
  • Alberic Aurteneche
  • Emmanuel Schwartz
  • Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse
  • Gilles Renaud
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Alberic AurtenecheEmmanuel SchwartzSarah-Jeanne LabrosseGilles RenaudThriller

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