Blanche Comme Neige and Burden

Blanche Comme Neige and Burden

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Once upon a time there was a young woman, much like Snow White in the film Blanche Comme Neige /As pure as snow (Certificate 15). The director Anne Fontaine (Coco before Chanel) turns this Grimm story into a reflection of contemporary life with poisoned apple and mirror. It is available online on Netflix and elsewhere.

Lou de Laâge plays the snow-white character Claire, as she did in a 2011 TV production. At the behest of Maud (Isabelle Huppert), her jealous stepmother, she is brought into a forest. Rescued by a hunter, the girl acquires seven companions. Physically, these are not "dwarfs" but emotionally atrophied. Each brings them to life in some way, mainly through Claire's discovery of her libido.

The loss of both parents has hindered their personal development. The men they know are transforming. Claire settles in a farmhouse with twin brothers. You have a troubled past; the others struggle to speak. A hypochondriac cellist accompanies them. Claire is introduced to friends. There is a bookseller who demands physical punishment, his son who is unable to tell a story, and a veterinarian who has been devastated by a failed romance. The seventh “dwarf” is Father Guilbaud (Richard Fréchette), keeper of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. The priest appears to be a more intact personality than the others.

Could the priest himself be wounded as the film causes many people not to be what they seem? Claire is drawn to him without seductive intentions. He is kind and does not act judiciously based on Jesus' words when she pours out her heart. "I'm trying to believe in miracles," he says. Although Claire is not a believer, she believes it should be after getting close to death.

To be or rather to be alive is something of a guiding principle. When people acknowledge that they have missed the goal and fail to discover their true selves, a new awakening occurs. Guilbaud believes the mountains are pulling this out. Those who visit the sanctuary also seek reconciliation. Maud is the dark figure in history. So we suspect her motives to seek his help in approaching her stepdaughter. Part of Claire's maturation is to encounter this fallen world that Maud represents without losing the transparency and purity that Guilbaud perceives in it.

The priest could of course be wrong. Maybe like Mae West she was once as pure as snow, but then she drifted. This would be in line with Bruno Bettelheim's psychological theory that we have to go deep into the dark forest, make mistakes and deal with our nightly fears and fantasies before we reappear disappointed enough to live in the world as it is. The moral challenge is not, like Maud, to give in to the negative side of our nature when we grow in holiness.

The weakest element of the film is not showing why this stepmother is so bad, even with an actress as good as Isabelle Huppert; Fontaine's Snow White never really leaves the forest either, but it may be just around the corner. Despite the efforts of others, she wakes up only after the priest makes the sign of the cross on her forehead.

SHOT in 2016, burden (Cert. 15) has just received an (online) publication in the UK. The film is based on the experience of a real Ku Klux Klan member, Mike Burden, who was friends with a predominantly black church. Garrett Hedlund plays this poor white orphan who was treated as a family by Tom Griffin, the clan's local chapter chief.

Garrett Hedlund as Mike Burden in Burden

Tom Wilkinson as Griffin manages not to be a stereotypical racist villain: he is considerate of others and conducts his take-back business with some compassion. Griffin celebrates whites as God's chosen by opening the Redneck KKK Museum. David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), minister of the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Laurens, South Carolina, organizes rallies.

First, Burden Griffin's willing lackey. With a short temper he plays rough and knocks out the lively daylight for a stubborn black driver. Compare this to Kennedy's sermon that perfect love, not revenge, emits fear. His Christian belief is not easy: Kennedy is concerned with the engines of transformation. He questions a case of racial discrimination and tells the businessman: "I want you to teach your employees to stop seeing colors."

His service is based on finding and disseminating the means by which this can be done. If God's grace works by Burden receiving the love of a good woman, it should be so. Judy has lockdown hair and a cross around her neck; and this image of a filthy existence that has been transformed by faith announces Andrea Riseborough as Burden's twitching and nuanced angel of mercy. The transformation of burdens continues along the way, with many conflicts, many doubts. It is guilty of leaving Griffin's family. Finding a new one through Judy and Kennedy is not only a baptism of water, but also of fire.

As the film progresses, there is little sign of social change. An individual is converted to the path of love, but is it someone else? The author and director Andrew Heckler might have been able to investigate why Klansmen sticks to her views. Kennedy explains this in relation to the underprivileged white “trailer garbage” that finds the status of a humiliation of an ethnic minority.

Hedlund's character is sometimes confusing: the viewer has to put the points between incongruent behavioral sequences. This may be due to the now available version of the film, which is ten minutes shorter than the one that premiered at the Sundance Festival. Still, it's still worth taking your knee for a film that shows so convincingly that you can only turn an enemy into a friend through love.

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