LA CHAMBRE NOIRE
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to French Writer/Director, Morgane Segaert for sending me an online screener to her debut 17 minute Drama/Fantasy short, “La Chambre Noire”. La Chambre Noire is a period piece set in the early 1900’s, where a young girl named Cassandre (Lisa Segaert) witnesses her mother’s (Julia Leblanc-Lacoste) health slowly declining by virtue of a mysterious illness. As each day passes, Cassandre feels an ever-growing presence in the house and will stop at nothing to protect her mother from what lurks in the shadows. The film also stars Sophie Belvisi, Jean-Francois Freydiere, and Matthieu Lecat.
The basis of Morgane’s screenplay is certainly a relatable one, creating an impression that she may have recently suffered a personal tragedy (unfortunately most of us have at one point or another in our lives). Death makes for a dark subject matter and it’s something that inevitably creeps its way into our thoughts on occasion. In La Chambre Noire, its Cassandre dealing with the very real possibility of losing a parent. The film is well shot by yet another first-timer in Guillaume Ogier. The framing is nice, opting for an abundance of long takes (perhaps a few too many) rather than multiple conventional shot choices. The audio is clear and the subtitles are accurate. In addition, the score contains quite a few long and dramatic violin strokes that cue whenever the entity is nearby. The opening orchestral theme is reminiscent of the works of composer Danny Elfman (Big Fish and Alice In Wonderland) – impressive stuff. Both the costume and set designs look completely authentic and each of the performances is serviceable. There are some early signs that Marie (Lacoste) isn’t feeling quite like herself. It seems as if she just has low blood pressure or something, that is until a creature (Lecat) who somewhat resembles “The Crooked Man” begins to appear right before Cassandre’s eyes, growing closer in proximity to her mother with every passing day. The imagery represents an idea of death and is creatively conceived with impressive makeup effects for the creature.
I think La Chambre Noire is a little too long for what it is. I suppose it’s depicting the final stages of a life, but considering that notion itself is a rather depressing one, ten minutes probably would have sufficed. There are two scenes that could’ve been cut and the film wouldn’t have lost any impact. One sees Marie and Cassandre waltzing together, and the other is a simple tea party with friends, neither of which accomplish all that much. The first sets the scene somewhat so that’s the little more relevant of the two I guess. I found it a little odd that Cassandre was so frightened at the site of the creature by the bedside (despite it obviously not being the first time she’s seen it), but in subsequent scenes, she doesn’t seem phased by it at all. One might argue that maybe she’s gradually resigned to the fact that her mother may not live much longer, I don’t know. It just seemed out of character for her.
La Chambre Noire is quite an effective debut short from a young French filmmaker in Segaert. The camera work is quite good, the sound is sharp, and the score is atmospheric. The performances are all solid and the material is relevant, albeit depressing in nature. A couple of the scenes didn’t necessarily add a lot to the narrative and only served to drag out its runtime. Young Cassandre’s reactions to the creature aren’t always consistent with her character either. All in all, though, this one is well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Morgane.
My rating for “La Chambre Noire” is 7/10