The 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival has begun, and all my rules went out the window. Yes, I went to the official opening film, but to be honest the only other movie that overlapped it repeats on Tuesday so I didn’t sacrifice anything. This year, Fantasia opened with Daniel Roby’s Dans La Brume.
Dans La Brume is your quintessential mainstream disaster movie. However, you can relax, it’s not American this time. It’s French and set in Paris, but for some reason it just feels very much like an adaptation from another movie with a different location and language.
Director Daniel Roby helms what is supposed to be a moving drama set in a disaster scenario that feels rather subtle for a tragedy. After an earthquake, Paris is invaded by a toxic fog that rises up to several stories conveniently leaving everyone’s top floor still safe. The fox is a very silent killer, we see people already dead but nobody’s death is ever seen on film. There is zero gore in this movie, except for some blood from a corpse we never see up close, the movie avoids any bloodshed.
In a sense, that fits in with the rest of the movie. Everything is accepted immediately and with much calm. There moments of urgency, but our characters never seem to falter or doubt their determination. Mathieu (Roman Duris) is the heroic father who never seems to be afraid or hesitant. Anna (Olga Kurylenko) is the wife that seems to have some sort of non-specified scientific background. Sarah (Fantine Harduin) is the proverbial goal of the entire film, as she suffers from a immunodeficiency that forces to leave in a bubble. Keeping her alive becomes her parents’ mission and the film’s focus.
The movie leaves a lot of things in the air (or foggy, if you prefer). Mathieu and Anna seem like a divorced couple, although we never learn if they are. Mathieu is also inexplicably resourceful, as he climbs obstacles with ease and rarely seems tired or afraid. Sarah is the child that barely exhibits any emotion but constantly requires reaffirmation from her parents. Anna does exhibit emotion for the fate of her daughter and is very critical of her father when he tries to find experimental treatments… in Canada of all places. See why it feels like a remake?
However, I must say the suspense does build up and a lot of the situations feel close to home. You do feel for the characters when their plans go awry after so much effort. There is no scientific explanation for the phenomenon and although I was expecting some environmental lecturing, I didn’t think the movie try to hammer one in at any point.
If you are looking for a disaster movie this is a more quiet alternative to the usual American boom box explosion-filled blockbuster. It’s a more subtle, less preachy and still entertaining movie. You will recognize the same beats than a mainstream film, but they will be less loud. At the same time, it’s still very much a disaster movie.
Lightly recommended for fans of the disaster movie genre who are looking for an option to the usual louder American version. It doesn’t stray too far away from a recognizable plot, but it also doesn’t stop to tell its backstory every few minutes. That being said, I did feel like some threads were left unfinished. Seekers of stronger emotions might be left wanting more.
Update: This film has won the Cheval Noir award for Best Film. I would argue both film and cast performances are not nearly as exciting as a ton – and I mean a ton – of other films in the roster this year. I completely disagree with the jury’s choice.
That will do for now.