In a warehouse lost in the middle of a desert expanse, five Quebecers have been brought together to embody an American counterpart participating in a mission on Mars. It is that, in space, the interpersonal problems multiply, from where this “mirror mission”, on Earth, charged to find solutions, since composed of individuals equipped with the same psychological profiles as the astronauts. Alas, quite the opposite is happening in vikingthe new existentialo-surrealist comedy from Stéphane Lafleur, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday.
“I had been thinking for a long time about a film on a space mission and, by chance of my research, I came across a documentary dealing with probes Travel, sent to the depths of our solar system, and whose designers had kept a duplicate in the laboratory in order to be able to solve technical problems remotely. I wondered what would happen if we applied this logic of the “double” to the humans of such a mission”, explains the award-winning director of Continental, a film without a gun and On familiar ground.
Wacky, the concept becomes strangely — that’s the word — credible.
Of narrative and metaphor
The film is told from the point of view of David, who is the “mirror”, the double, of astronaut John. For David, this mission is the dream of a lifetime; it’s an opportunity to “make a difference”.
Like his colleagues, David/John receives a message from the real John every morning, who writes his mood upon waking up, with whom he is currently in conflict, etc. The appearance of the device which conveys said messages evokes a miniature HAL: a fun nod to the 2001 by Kubrick. More poetic: this recurring image of David’s spouse, who comes back to haunt him, this time in homage to Solarisby Tarkovsky.
“I suspected that I had a good concept, but it was so rich that it became easy to get lost, continues Stéphane Lafleur. As soon as Eric arrives [K. Boulianne, qui coscénarise], it accelerated. I had several ideas, but I have a more instinctive, poetic approach, while Éric is very strong in the narrative. That’s what I wanted for this film. After You sleep Nicole, which was a wandering film that didn’t necessarily tell a “story”, and it was assumed, I wanted a film propelled by a story, with levels, developments. We really worked on that, Eric and I. Because, with a “concept film” like this, it can quickly become boring if you don’t offer something else to the viewer. »
This “something else” in this case takes the form of unusual discoveries, unexpected reversals, asides full of that tongue-in-cheek humor that characterizes Stéphane Lafleur’s cinema… As it happens that certain American astronauts have a double Quebecer of the opposite sex given that only the psychological profile takes precedence, we are, for example, entitled to this passage where a taciturn sixty-year-old announces as naturally as possible that he is pregnant: here below, we reproduce, without bad game of words, everything that’s going on up there.
The more the mission advances, the more it gets bogged down in peccadilloes. Beneath the surface benevolence reigns an insidious tyranny. But when a changing of the guard focused on, said the film, “common sense”, is worse. At a key moment, David/John asks a colleague to decide between “the easy way” and “the hard way”. Upstream, he expressed his desire to solve the “real problems”, the “real business”, expressions loaded with meaning if any…
Therefore, we can perceive in vikinga left-right political metaphor.
“Inevitably, with science fiction, you end up tackling… concrete subjects. Besides, we didn’t want to approach the project as a parody of a science fiction film. Éric and I wanted the characters to believe in themselves, and for the public to believe in them. It’s the situation that’s absurd, not the characters: I always have empathy for my characters. That’s a lot of what comes up in my films: absurd situations, and how the characters react to these situations. »
A film “on the side”
Filigree, viking formulates a fascinating, and often hilarious, critique of American hegemony, be it spatial or cultural.
“The United States inspires our culture enormously, nourishes our culture; they rub off on us. I originally envisioned this science fiction film knowing full well that I couldn’t afford to do like the Americans. So I designed and placed my film, “next to” these blockbusters… viking, it’s a film that takes itself for another film, like David takes itself for John. The concept not only made it possible to assume this limit of means, but to have fun while expressing something. »
Beyond the humorous dimension which willingly flirts with surrealism (there are sequences that Buñuel would not have denied), viking sees Stéphane Lafleur dwell on serious existential considerations, as in his three previous films.
“I liked this idea of a guy who wants to complete a project so that he can then move on; let it be like a second chance for him. You sleep Nicole, it was about a girl who doesn’t know what she wants, and here we have a guy who knows exactly what he wants. »
However, as the saying goes, it is better to be careful what you wish for. Stéphane Lafleur nods.
“Sometimes you have to see things through to realize that you were better off where you were. We often do that in life. The other thing further, and the next baby, the new baby… Once you have it, you’re back to square one. viking, it’s a bit of a movie on that. It’s paradoxical, because myself, with my films, I have to go to the end of my ideas to be able to move on to others. »
We won’t complain, this process succeeding wonderfully for the filmmaker, one of our most gifted and original. What again proves viking.
The film viking hits theaters September 30.