Sometimes a film’s description does not do it justice. Just like, as much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes a film review really does not give you a clear appraisal of a movie. Such was the case for the France/Canada co-production of the Fantasia Film Festival opening film, Dans la Brume. Daniel Roby’s (Funkytown, Louis Cyr) film is a different kind of apocalyptic picture. I went into it with low expectations and wound up tsk tsking myself about bringing to it preconceived notions.
Nothing is typical here in that there is precious little violence, nary a zombie or alien invasion. I applaud those behind the making of the picture in that they did not fall into the usual pitfall of making an apocalyptic film in which the human element is completely removed. Here is a film about attempting to survive with all the emotions that would involve and not just resorting to trying to entertain or distract us via the threat of mindless brain eaters. They have managed to make an apocalypse film which feels quite personal.
After a small earthquake shakes about the inhabitants of Paris, a mist begins to envelope the busy metropolis. Mathieu (Romain Duris – Fleuve Noir – also screening at Fantasia this year, All the Money in the World) is in the street when it begins and sees that it is killing off people who breathe it. Acting quickly he, holding his breath, manages to get up to a flat across the street from where he lives and where his ex-wife Anna (Olga Kurylenko – Quantum of Solace, Oblivion) and daughter Sarah (Fantine Harduin – Happy End) live. His daughter, because she has a genetic disorder, is forced to live her life inside a machine which filters the air and everything she comes in contact with as her body cannot process the toxins, etc. that are in the atmosphere.
Sarah is safe from the toxic mist within her machine as long as her battery (as the power has gone out) lasts. As they cannot get in with her, Anna and Mathieu’s lives are in jeopardy. Anna, thinking quickly, brings Mathieu up to the top floor of her building where an elderly couple live. There they are safe as they are above the mist.
Left with precious little resources and soon realizing that the mist is rising, Mathieu and Anna have to do something to get their daughter out of there. A more permanent solution to their “problem” has to be found and time (and breathable air) is running out.
Tension is the name of the game here. If it is not created then your mind would wander. That is apocalyptic for a film of this sorts. It really relies on you wanting to know what will happen to the characters and if they will be able to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them. On top of all this tension is the emotional side of the film. Constructed largely via the three members of the family, how they relate to one another and all care deeply about each other, emotions play a large part in the reasons why you find yourself completely invested in what is happening on the big screen.
Visually there are plenty of great scenes. Total advantage is taken by director Roby and cinematographer Pierre-Yves Bastard (JCVD) of the visual opportunity afforded them by the mist. Despite its ominous nature it is rendered almost beautiful (yet still creepy) in a way by the way it is shot. Because it is not a big Hollywood film I assume the budget wasn’t huge, so what they are able to do visually and through special effects here is rather impressive. All is very realistic looking.
Some might roll their eyes at the way that things just seem to work out for this family allowing them to avert what has befallen most other Parisian residents. But allowances have to be made as this is a movie. Without some convenient fixes there would be no film. Yes, you can see some things coming, but overall there is enough guesswork and original ideas to hold your attention.