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Luna [Philippe Berthelet, Canada, 2021]

Experimental cinema is as old as cinema itself and, indeed, cinema began as an experiment. It is the generally expected of the genre that it should challenge narrative structure, defy attempts at causality, and abstract the narrative form. Philippe Berthelet’s first film, Luna – a minimalist, poetic exploration of the fluid relationship between art and life – deals with abstract art, but in a not so abstract way.

The story is about the titular Luna, whose ritual it is to paint on a bad day. Painting here stands to represent all art forms, and the film explores what effects art may have for the individual. The film does away with any notions of plot or structure, but it does not surprise and, hence, may be said to be fairly linear, in spite of the flashback element which functions to clarify circumstances in the present.

The film – shot on Super 8 – looks good with the dated feel to it. Shot compositions have a variety and have been cleverly selected. The sound design and evocative musical score do justice to the theme. The voiceover has a haunting quality, artful itself in its execution. But although the voice lends itself beautifully, it would perhaps have been a bolder move if more was left unsaid. The music and the brushstrokes themselves do a lot of the ‘talking’ and words could have been more sparingly used – words that seek to clarify take away from the enigma.

In terms of performance, Audrey-Eve Goulet looks convincing as an artist with her brush strokes, while little Chloe Berthelet is very charming indeed. Minimalist as it is, the bare room with only easel and paint works great as the set. The use of montage works well too. The film is a good first attempt, deep too, but one is left wondering if Berthelet could have pushed the boundaries a little further, been a little more defiant, leaving a little more to conjecture and audience imagination.


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