Sitges 2022 Review: THE FIVE DEVILS, The Making of a Witch

Editor, Canada; Montréal, Canada (@bonnequin)
Sitges 2022 Review: THE FIVE DEVILS, The Making of a Witch

Power can be dangerous in the hands of a child. They too often don't quite know what the power is, don't know how to stop it, and don't realize (or sometimes don't care) who they hurt in the process. They often feel their existence so precarious, so bound by what they can see as the whims of adults, that they desperately hold to whatever power they possess, even if it means they shatter those around them.

In her sophomore directorial feature, Léa Mysius (Ava) once again enters the mind of someone too young to understand their actions. This queer horror drama simmers with longing and frustration, as four adults circle their past like wolves baiting for a prize just out of reach. Past decisions turn have become present millstones around their necks, and one girl seems to be the strange key to either dragging them down or setting them free.

Vicky (Sally Dramé) is the only mixed-race child in her small mountain town in France. Her mother Joanne (Adèle Exarchopolous) works at the local swimming pool, taking Vicky with her when she goes for swims in the local, cold lake; her father Jimmy (Moustapha Mbengue), an immigrant from Senegal, is a firefighter, and while their marriage might have been happy once, it isn't anymore. And Vicky can sense it. In fact, she can sense a lot; her ability to know the difference between a squirrel's and a rat's breathe, her jars filled with scent combinations, give her a miraculous insight.

And a terrible one, as she discovers when her father's sister Julie (Swala Emati) shows up. Joanne is not happy to see her, as it seems Julie did something so terrible in the past that the entire town resents her presence. Taking some of her things, Vicky makes a scent that sends her into the past, it seems literally: she sees how her mother met her father and aunt, and what's more, it seems Julei ould see Vicky in the past, causing her such deep anxiety that caused her to become an alcoholic.

the five devils 2.jpgBoth Joanne and Julie are trapped by one fateful moment; for both of them, this has meant curtailing love; for Joanne especially, this has also meant staying in a town that she hates and seems to hate her. Mother and daughter each must hide away in a sense, rejected by those around them. Vicky is too young to reject herself, only knowing that she wants her family complete; Joanne begins to understand that she has been rejecting herself, allowing a single moment to steer her off her longed-for course. Her husband is oblivious, and Julie is trying to keep herself from falling apart, and that means reaching out for long-lost love.

As the pieces fall together, the colours move from a cold blue to warmer hues. The sense of touch, taste, smell, battle for dominance over the too-often-deceptive sight and sound, as if only things like touch and smell will reveal the truth to those who need it. This might be good for Joanne and Julie, but it's bad for Vicky: if her parents are no longer together, does that mean that they don't love her? That she will not be wanted, or was never wanted? Vicky continues her scent-induced time travel, determined to find a moment that will guarantee what she thinks is the best present for her, in her child's way, regardless of the feelings of others.

Dramé is confident and more than a little scary in her first role; it's not easy for a child actor to express how the weight of the world can burden someone so young, but we have no trouble believing that Vicky is smart and vulnerable, capable of great power and deep empathy. Exarchopolous lets her character's inner demons and growing anger over bad decisions flick across her face and body, letting it do the talking that her mouth refuses.

While some of the reveal will hold no surprised for the audience, Mysius crafts a witchy tale in The Five Devils, one where perhaps witchcraft is the only thing that will help people who have skirted the edge of their emotions for too long. The elements and the sense hold our memories, our thoughts, our longings, and in certain hands, this can be a curse or a blessing.

The Five Devils

Director(s)
  • Léa Mysius
Writer(s)
  • Paul Guilhaume
  • Léa Mysius
Cast
  • Adèle Exarchopoulos
  • Swala Emati
  • Sally Dramé
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Léa MysiusPaul GuilhaumeAdèle ExarchopoulosSwala EmatiSally DraméComedyDramaFantasy

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