Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Domain", a film by Patric Chiha: a gay teen comes of age, while "responsible" for his alcoholic aunt; some grad school math along the way

One under-recognized problems for LGBT people has been that, absent the likelihood (in the past) of their having their own families, they wind up being expected to take care of other adults in their own families, not just the elderly, but also the disabled.   It’s brutal to call it this, but it is sometimes called the “family slave” problem, and particularly affects unmarried women.

And it might affect young men. At least, that seems to be a principal idea behind the new French thriller from Patric Chiha, “Domain” (or Domaine” en francais).  The film depicts a somewhat emotionally abusive relationship between a middle-aged mathematician Nadia (Beatrice Dalle) with a serious alcohol problem, and her teenage nephew Pierre (Isaie Sultan).  The title of the film refers explicitly to the luxurious mountain (Austrian Alps) rehab facility where Nadia winds up, and where Pierre is told, by doctors there, that he still must be responsible for her.  She’s not supposed to leave the premises.  It’s dangerous for her to be alone outside in the woods on the grounds.  As in Wagnerian opera, the forest is dangerous.  The whole concept of the film has a “Lars van Trier” feel, with many intense close-ups and garish colors (especially red) in many of the party and bar scenes.  Technically, this is a very professionally made film.

The director implies that the actor playing Pierre was only about 16 or 17 as the film was shot (in 2009), and he is going through the trickiest transitions in his own life. He is a serious boy with a somewhat charismatic personality, rather like the character Will in the soap “Days of our Lives”.  A twenty-something Farbrice (Manuel Marimer) makes eye contact on a tram (in Bordeaux, where much of the film takes place), and pretty soon they are dating.  The intimacies are not shown, except for a vigorous kiss in a bar, following an interesting session of karaoke-like singing by Pierre and unusual dance moves  (about an hour into the film).  But the gay relationship comes across as his only “wholesome” interaction (even if Pierre is too young for this to be legal in some US states). 

The film mentions Nadia’s mathematical accomplishments, and she talks about Godel, whose ideas in mathematics are controversial and are familiar to any graduate student (as to me, when I attended the University of Kansas for my own MA in the 1960s). 

The film also shows a lot of the characters smoking cigarettes a lot.  Perhaps in Europe that’s still more socially acceptable than it is here.  There are several familiar disco songs in the sound track. 

The DVD will be available from Strand Releasing April 17.   Strand says there will be a theatrical release (check Landmark and other arthouse chains). 

Wikipedia attribution link for Bordeaux bridge picture. I was near the area in the spring of 2001. 

This film should be compared to "Red Dirt" (1999), reviewed here Nov. 24, 2009. 

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