Star Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑
Directed by: #DanielZiegler
Written by: #DanielZiegler
Film Review by: Thomas Jay
Elodie is a 2019 independent film Written and Directed by Daniel Ziegler. An artful experience to watch, the film concerns a playwright, Sabrina Stone (Faith Decker) as she’s led into a chaotic world of her own creation and lands directly in the midst of a kidnapping.
We the audience are introduced to Decker’s Sabrina Stone as she’s in the process of crafting a script for her play, her latest production seems to be the final thing holding her together the rag tag group of people she holds close and when they secure the chance to perform the piece to a respectably sized audience, things take a sudden and calamitous downward spiral. Forced into playing the titular Elodie out of pure necessity, it becomes clear to all involved that the problems need to be addressed and Sabrina sets about this upon her transportation to the diegetic world of creation. Production company Black Box Films suggest “the protagonist crumbles under her personal and artistic pressure” and frankly I’d struggle to put it a better way myself. Thematically it does tackle the process of creating something and is in proxy of that somewhat of a self-reflection on behalf of the character.
Now the themes have been better established, I’ll cover them in detail for a minute or two. Artistic and personal pressure, the heart of the film and boy I don’t think I’ve seen a film profess it’s themes with such clarity and visual quality for quite some time. The whole narrative arc charts Sabrina’s struggle to find some kind of comfort let alone pride in her work and I’m sure in some degree it is a point that resonates with just about everyone in a multitude of contexts and it’s perfectly caught here, conveyed best through performance and cinematography. The camera is a really outstanding element of form in Elodie but the way it chooses to run with a really tight close up for its most popular shot type really allows the actors to do their best work, after all the face is the tool that is most nuanced and most important in that profession and the way such a choice allows the face to “speak” is a genuine stroke of genius, not only does it channel early Spike Lee, but it really allows the face to work in all its glory and such a fine detail is something you don’t get to typically see. Focusing solely on such an element of each star only serves to add to the immense atmosphere this film has. I wouldn’t say tension (though that is applicable in a few action sequences) but just this crippling sense of almost impending doom, working to a deadline or fighting against your own standards, tiredness etc. It’s personal pressures that Sabrina has are all numerous narrative threads, from the feeling/very real fear her friend is being ripped away from her (represented by Elodie’s kidnapped sister) or her slowly collapsing relationship the character of Sabrina is both stunningly performed and exceptionally written/directed. I could rave on for an eternity about this point but to be honest there are other worthy aspects in need of a glance, let alone a whole other theme as well.
The notion of artistic pressure is an odd, minefield of sorts if you really sat and thought about it. Imposed by one of two parties (if not both) - the creator and the fan base. That’s it. Perhaps most intense and evident in the music industry, or to put it better, at its most toxic on this sphere, just chart the history of your favourite band to see how reception around them changes and arguably worsens with each album. Anyway, to take it back to the ‘two sides’ I think the film manages to tackle the self-inflicted struggles. In pure logical terms, it fits in with her own struggles of mental health and the intense pressures Sabrina places herself under. In herself she feels lost and suffers some kind of writer’s block, hence why she’s thrust into the world of Elodie challenged to search for an ending, or more accurately: motivation. On that note I’ll jump straight to the ending, a final shot of Sabrina on stage smiling to herself sat in the audience. Its somewhat ambiguous, there is no explicit conclusion in any sense but, as obvious it seems, that smile suggests she’s comfortable and can now take pride in what she’s created, it reminded me in ways of Birdman of 2014 with that wildly thought provoking end.
Just to briefly touch on it’s inspirations, I’ve not been able to find any confirmation of this so it’s largely conjecture on my behalf but to be honest, this is a love letter to cinema and you’d be wildly delusional to think otherwise. With some of that flowing, stunning camerawork that the likes of Chazelle and Iñárittu have used in some of their recent Oscar winning films. It takes major inspiration from Chazelle in terms of its block, bright colours and bears some similarities in dynamics to the relationship at the core of Whiplash. On top of this, it channels clear elements of the western genre with frequent use of the ‘shootout’ shot/reverse shot structure, a nod to Taxi Driver with a top down shot of a glass and even some meta elements that would make Wes Craven blush. Impressively Elodie manages to pay respect to those that inspired it whilst keeping a clear identity of its own.
My only major critique of the film was the pacing. It is an incredibly difficult premise to pull off and so much thematic or narrative content that has to be fed to the audience in the early acts but it did slightly stumble. I feel to a degree that some of the resolution seen in the fictional world could‘ve been held back a tad bit longer to just keep me full engaged but in all honesty, it is just a personal problem that may not be universal.
Circling back to the visuals, Ziegler’s direction is really strong. Having just made the connection of the clear influence from The Wizard of Oz via the use of retrograde cinematography for the imagined world and, though this realisation makes a bit of a stump to my reviews structure (hows that for a fourth wall break?) just adds to what I noted earlier. This is a clear evolution of what’s come before in the history of cinema and just relays the directors love for and awareness of his artistic medium. Elodie has such a personality to it I was seriously blown away by the quality of it.
Sound. Now speaking for myself, if you’ve followed my reviews or looked at my other film related writings, I have a tendency to never really pick up on the elements of sound outside of really on the nose use as in: theme(s), dialogue etc. Now here I didn’t have that problem. Arguably it was borderline poor standard as sometimes it was overwhelming over other key elements but in the whole it was complimenting and well fitting. Contributing to the film’s incredibly complex atmosphere by adding an element of the fantastical it was truly astounding.
Well crafted and mimicking the conventions of so many directors and genres, the character study of Sabrina Stone in Elodie is a damn fine outing on behalf of both Ziegler and his cast/crew. Honestly I’d urge you to keep an eye on what anybody involved comes out with next and I’d urge you to track this title down, available to stream right now on Amazon Prime.
Reviewed by: #TomJay