Stèphane Batut’s feature film debut VIF-ARGENT crafts a fantastical reality and deals with two of the most human feelings: love and loss. Although Batut is new to directing (having previously worked as a casting agent) his debut film was picked up by Cannes Film Festival’s Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema (ACID) section of the Festival.
In VIF-ARGENT Juste (Timothee Robart) collects memories of the deceased. He himself has passed on, though he is being kept in the human world working as an angel of death. Through the memories he collects, he helps the recently passed to enter the afterlife and make sense of their existence.
“Throughout VIF-ARGENT scenes of dejection are lit with soft red lighting, allowing Celine Bozon to focus her cinematography on the haunting reality of the characters’ loneliness.”
Juste slips around the streets of Paris, passing people who do not realise his presence. He is a soft-spoken and mysterious man who removes the coats of his ‘clients’ and wears them in a bizarre display of larceny that he passes off as a respectable way of keeping people’s memories alive. In many ways, Juste functions as Death himself. His world is thrown off balance, however, when he encounters Agathe (Judith Chemla) who recognizes him from his past life. The two strike up a bond but their relationship is tested as they grow closer and their love becomes complicated by Juste’s job.
In several jolting sequences, Batut juggles between the idea of death being final and death is only the beginning. One such sequence features Juste becoming semi-visible. Although his translucent body works as a tool for the audience, it makes little sense in the diegesis of the film. Batut has an obvious understanding of the mechanics of cinema, however, scenes like this show a misunderstanding of reality.
Throughout VIF-ARGENT scenes of dejection are lit with soft red lighting, allowing Celine Bozon to focus her cinematography on the haunting reality of the characters’ loneliness. The camera often focusses on the human form up close, trailing over every part of the body. Each little bump and curve is seen in its truest form and feels achingly real. Like an open invitation, we are welcome to share in all of the smaller moments of these people’s lives. Rather than such close-up shots eroticising the body, they instead allow the audience to be a part of the character’s lives, rather than making them voyeurs.
VIF-ARGENT is about the connection of two lost souls, and despite the inevitability that they will be together, their acceptance of each other in a relationship is built on a past love.