(Release Info London schedule; February 12th, 2021, Curzon Home Cinema)
15 year-old Lyz (Noée Abita), a high school student in 'The French Alps', has been accepted to a highly selective ski club whose aim is to train future professional athletes. Taking a chance on his new recruit, Fred (Jérémie Renier), ex-champion turned coach, decides to make Lyz his shining star regardless of her lack of experience. Under his influence, Lyz will have to endure more than the physical and emotional pressure of the training. Will Lyz’s determination help her escape his grip?
We see everything from Lyz’s point of view for maximum emotion. The opening scenes are fairly enigmatic. We're between a very naturalistic and well-informed work on the sporting world and, at the same time, something almost fantastical with this snow falling at night that Lyz watches from her window. There's a strong desire to plunge the audience into an intimate journey. Right from the start, the film immerses in Lyz’s inner world. We're at the heart of her sensations and as close as possible to the visions she invents for herself, in a kind of hallucinated reality. Lyz is a fighter! She wants to ski, she wants to win, she wants to be seen. She’s desperately in need of love! She wants to be recognized, she wants to shine for someone. That’s why she throws herself completely into this story. But it’s only a downward spiral, and she overcomes it. The screenplay uses the device of the spiral in which the character of Lyz finds herself. Nevertheless, the film avoids the easy solution of the spectacular. "Slalom" follows the action, to the beat of the main character’s pulse, in order to take the viewer on an intimate and instantaneous journey. In the film, there's no trial. But what Lyz lives through and why she lives through it speaks more to us. In the end Lyz learns to say no. All the action is expressed through her eyes. To learn to respect yourself, you've to learn to say no. It's very important for Lyz to say no. In direction terms, at that specific moment, everything around her exists almost exclusively off-camera. The film ends up on her face, so that the viewer is able to see her soothed and almost weightless. She renounces in order to find inner peace. During the film, she has gone through every shade of emotion. Rage, anger, pain, joy, rebellion. It’s the only time in the movie when Lyz is calm and at peace. She's really in tune with herself and emerges victorious. The film condemns sexual abuse in sports, that’s the subject, but it’s also the resilience that drives Lyz to move forward. You can feel her gradually regaining her awareness of herself and her newfound freedom. The ending is optimistic and represents a form of wisdom.
Fred (Jérêmie Rénier) trains young people in a ski-study program to enter competitions, race, make it to the top of the podium and achieve their ultimate dream; to become 'Olympic' champions. He's a former ski champion who could have made it, but who probably had an accident and had to stop racing. He’s become a coach in spite of himself. That’s the subject; how can a man reach the point where he does those kinds of things when, at first, he doesn’t seem like a rapist, a psychopath, or a guy that’s sick. How do you reach the point of losing your mind, of losing a form of control? That's the subject of our discussions and our fears. So, he’s experiencing a kind of frustration up until the day when he meets this girl, Lyz, on whom he’s going to project a lot of things. They've to transmit, to put themselves in their place and fantasize about their success. For a coach, the success of your work comes first and foremost through that of your students. The character of Fred is above all a man, a human being and not a monster. He slips up, he blames himself and he too is eaten up by guilt, desire and envy. In the end, "Slalom" can almost be seen as a feminist film as the women take centre stage, such as the characters of Lyz’s mother Catherine (Marie Denarnoud) and Lilou (Muriel Combeau), Fred’s wife. This mother fascinates us. She feels love but, at the same time, she wants to live her life. Lilou, on the other hand, clings to Fred and lies a little to herself even if she wants to denounce something. She doesn’t really know how to do it.
When the recent sex scandals in the sports world broke, the film was finished. With "Slalom" people will be able to understand the message. If the film had been released a few years ago, it's reception would have definitely been different. But now people are speaking out. And we know that stories like the one in the film are everywhere and in every sport. "Slalom" aims to fuel a debate and free up speech concerning the issue of sexual domination in sport. And then the subconscious need to denounce such practices came to the fore as the main focus of the film. Sexual abuse and assault in sports is a taboo subject. Cinema is an ideal medium for listening, watching, guessing what's never said, and revealing the gods and demons that hide deep in our souls. The fantastical aspect is reminiscent of genre cinema. It comes from the desire for aestheticism or fiction, to plunge into an intimate journey because that’s how we see things. The goal is to avoid all didacticism. There's documentary film on the one hand and fiction on the other. Fiction imposes an artistic and aesthetic vision. This isn’t a film with an agenda, it’s a film that’s meant to be open about the subject; it’s not a settling of scores. It’s a work of fiction, almost like a psychological thriller. "Slalom" creates a very strong visual world.
The film deals with adolescence and the awakening of desire. Resilience and the quest for identity are two issues that are close to our heart. The notion of the quest for identity is very important in the journey. The heroines try to find themselves, take risks, fall and then finally get up again. There's a kind of revelation. What the film is particularly interested in is trauma and how you recover from it. Talking about emotions in adolescence means talking about what manifests itself, motivates and moves you. It’s a time when emotions are in motion, when they take shape even though we don’t yet know how to contain, name and give meaning to what's going on in us. It's also the moment when we test our limits and when, in order to exist, we project ourselves in the eyes of others, even if it means sometimes going astray. Adolescence is indecision, adrenaline and risk-taking, incredibly rich and interesting sensations to film. In life, people are contradictory and that's precisely what will lead to a journey that's certainly rocky but nevertheless rich. "Slalom" is an intimate manifesto on renunciation and resilience.