The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

French actor debuts film at Strand Theatre downtown

photo contributed
photo contributed

By Teresa Fleming

It’s a rarity for a French film to hold its world premiere in rural Iowa, but last Wednesday, Feb. 15, students, faculty and community members crowded into the Strand Theater for the first public screening of “Souffler plus fort que la mer,” or “To breathe more strongly than the sea.” The screening drew students and faculty from across disciplines as disparate as French and film studies for the screening and discussion with French actor Aurélien Recoing, who starred as a father and fisherman attempting to guide his family through tumultuous times. The event was sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement and the Department of French and Arabic.

The film examines a family and a village on the brink of economic collapse as they face the repossession of the last fishing boat on their small island, and was inspired by the real economic crises that have affected rural France. It frames the coming of age story of Julie, a young girl who searches for a path forward after her family’s livelihood disappears. Recoing explained that the film was shot in only 5 weeks on location on an island off the western coast of France. While living there with the rest of the crew, he witnessed firsthand the consequences communities face when the industries that used to sustain them disappear.

“This island is very small, it has only one hundred residents in the winter, and we feel the problems that result from that – alcoholism, unemployment – but also the solidarity that emerges,” Recoing said. “The director [Marine Place] travelled to this island because it had to be real, for her it was this feeling how to tell the story of people who have lost their jobs but must continue.”

Part of the film’s sense of authenticity emerged from its partially improvised script. Recoing recounted filming scenes where he and his fellow actors would shout at one another incoherently to capture the dynamics of a family fraught with tension. For Recoing, this ad-lib work was reminiscent of his experiences filming “Blue is the Warmest Color,” an acclaimed French film which relied heavily on improvised performance from its actors. He reflected that it was these moments of organic interaction that were the most difficult to portray as an actor.

“To be human, to be simple, no act, is one of the most challenging things we are asked to do,” Recoing said. “It was a strange film to produce because everyone was feeling the distance and difficulty of togetherness, on an island which is very small.”

Recoing addressed the spiritual undercurrents that characterize the film as an essential part of the relationship between the island’s inhabitants and their coastal home village.

“The sea has been a monster for many centuries. Spirituality is a link between humans and the sea- the word religion comes from the word relier, which means to reconnect, to link up with something. And religion serves as a link between humans and the sea.”

Students who wish to see more of Recoing’s work can join him this Saturday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m. in Bucksbaum 152 for a screening of his film, “Tout un hiver sans feu,” or “An entire winter without fire.”

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