"Brother and sister", on Canal: hatred, family front line

The family, place of origins, is also the mythological factory par excellence

"Brother and sister", on Canal: hatred, family front line

The family, place of origins, is also the mythological factory par excellence. From ancient theater to psychoanalysis, Western culture has never said otherwise: humans stumble because they are prisoners of structures that go beyond them, of laws that precede them, of bonds that they cannot sever. Taken in a family, the individual is no longer exactly himself: he doubles as a function (father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter) and thereby finds himself engaged in a destiny.

Arnaud Desplechin digs the family vein that recurs in his dotted work, started very early with La Vie des Morts (1991) and continued with A Christmas Tale (2008). A vein that is that of the choral narrative, of the return home (Roubaix, the filmmaker's birthplace and its fictional Ithaca), of the mixing of filial ties, rituals, duties and the resentment that lies beneath.

The family being also the place of great passions, it is thus with an excessive feeling that Brother and Sister traces the particular genealogy: the frank and unmitigated hatred which opposed for years a brother and a sister, Louis (Melvil Poupaud ) and Alice (Marion Cotillard). He is a writer, deeply broken by the loss of a child, she is an actress, playing The Dead every night, by James Joyce, on the boards. Louis has a psychiatrist friend, Zwy, played by Patrick Timsit.

Two opposite poles

Hate has a history, usually muddled, because its causes are lost in the sequence of its adventures. The event which allows us here to reconvene the different strata is a road accident (the scene, superb and terrible, is a marvel of millimeter suspense), suffered by the parents of the protagonists, who find themselves in the hospital and on the verge of death. Louis and Alice can only hurry to their bedside under the express condition, required by the actress, not to find themselves in the presence of her brother. Let everyone find their own, but only in their corner.

What is a kinship made of? Of what mystery, of what violence? Brother and Sister is based on a duality of masculine and feminine principles, here as the two opposite poles of the same adventure. Each in their own way, Alice and Louis invent an existence other than fraternal. She, on the boards, where the alerts of mourning do not affect her stature as an actress. Him in seclusion, living as a hermit at the other end of France, in an inaccessible Toulouse countryside, except on horseback. The hatred persists, but it may just be a game, a bickering.

Between them, the front line is the one drawn by the editing, majestically oscillating between present and past, like an active memory, but also between these intersecting dimensions that are life, the stage, the dream. Rarely has Desplechin's camera, of tremendous mobility, worked with so much skill to take the measure of a distance.