When the painter paints his muse, is he responsible in some way for what stands before him?
In Tromper le silence, a photographer (an exquisite Suzanne ClÃ©ment) becomes obsessed with her model (a brooding Maxime Dumontier). The movie, winner of the Coup de coeur prize for most popular Canadian film at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, is written and directed by Quebec’s own Julie Hivon. Her previous works include the comedy Ice Cream, Chocolate, and Other Consolations (2001). Tromper le silence also won the Innovation award at the Festival.
When Guillaume steps into Viviane’s studio for the first time, she notices something underneath his messy appearance and nonchalant attitude. Something about him stirs feelings within her, and she asks Guillaume to model for her for a personal project. He reminds her of her younger brother, who disappeared from Viviane’s life a long time ago. Later, she learns that like her, he has a brother whom he feels he let down. While Viviane uses Guillaume to heal a wound from the past, he uses her to put some order in his present.
Tromper le silence doesn’t move with a plot, but with complex characters. Viviane is quiet and doesn’t talk about herself too much. Guillaume becomes the perfect channel for her emotions. He is a Kurt Cobain look-alike, with lots of scars on his body, greasy blond hair, and a scruffy beard. He looks like something scraped off the floor of a bar after a fight. Like Viviane, he doesn’t say much. The one sound most heard between them is the click of the camera. When Guillaume is sitting down on the sofa and Viviane surrounds him slowly with the camera, it is like watching a vulture circling its prey. You’re made nervous that at any moment one of them might explode with anger, or passion, or any other emotion. But it never happens, and their scars never burst out completely. They become friends without really knowing each other, or themselves for that matter.
Although the movie does not offer a specific plot, you are pulled into it because of the relationships between the characters. It is not what happens at the time in which the movie takes place that is interesting, but what seems to have taken place before. Throughout, there is a lingering hope that the characters’ lives will be revealed in more detail, and though this eventually happens, nothing is given away completely. For Viviane these moments are explored in flashbacks with her brother, a series of grainy photograph-like instants. And for Guillaume, we are made to struggle to understand him alongside Viviane, to whom he slowly begins to open up and eventually confesses why his brother is in a wheelchair.
The look of the movie is perfectly calculated to create this atmosphere of hidden bitterness and inner struggle with the past. Tromper le silence is shot in nuances of cold blue and smoky gray, evoking a feeling similar to a Dickensian novel. The action takes place in the winter, thus emphasizing the themes of alienation and loneliness.
The charm of Tromper le silence lies in the fact that the film doesn’t take itself seriously; there is no profoundly emotional dialogue, but a lot of closeups that speak volumes.
Tromper le silence is a fresh and different approach to drama. There is no romance, no particular pursuit. It is worth seeing because it’s beautiful, like a photograph. The film gets its acclaim because it is framed like a picture of the human condition.
The movie simply introduces a platonic meeting between two human beings, with a lot of emotional baggage. And the more often they meet, the more their personal dilemmas become clear. In the same way, with every picture that Viviane takes, more of Guillaume’s scars appear on the photograph. Click.
You can catch Tromper le silence at movie theatres now, including Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin, near Berri-UQAM metro.