From the onset, the first elements that catch the viewer’s eyes in France are the baroque environments that its prosperous characters populate. While the locations themselves are stunning and opulent, they mask the cold, calculated nature of the journalists and politicians that inhabit said spaces. Director Bruno Dumont’s exorbitant critique of contemporary media processes reflects this dissonance as France is both lavishly fascinating and emotionally disengaging.
The title character, France De Meurs (Léa Seydoux), is the epitome of this duality. De Meurs is the top journalist in the country of France, whose warm smile and “authentic” reporting attracts the attention of multitudes of viewers during her daily news program. Unbeknownst to the public though, France stages her field news reports with the cold precision of an auteur director in order to boost her ratings. However, after France accidentally drive into an oncoming cyclist, the renowned journalist unravels as she struggles to maintain the narrative around her situation.
Throughout France’s odyssey of self-reckoning, the viewer is exposed to a world much like our own; where posing and performing are the norm and every diatribe and debate is contrived for capitalistic self-interests. Dumont bluntly illustrates how the false narratives that France crafts about poor refugees or dangerous freedom fighters is equivalent to the deception everyone uses in developing their digital personas. In a society where the populous deploys deception as much as the U.S. Military, reality becomes nothing more than an illusion.
The artificiality of France’s reports is mirrored in the actual film itself. The cinematography seems purposely overexposed in most scenes in order to make the diegetic world appear unnatural and synthetic. This fabrication also extends to France‘s narrative, which is exponentially exaggerated as the film progresses. The sensationalism eventually progresses to the point of parody in the third act, with enough melodramatic flourishes to make even Douglas Sirk (The King of Melodrama) roll his eyes. Suffice to say, Dumont successfully uses classic melodramatic tropes to demonstrate the meaninglessness of contemporary media on a metatextual level, as France left this reviewer unable to determine the film’s narrative purpose as the credits began to roll.
The Silver Lining
Léa Seydoux has the immensely challenging job of performing Dumont’s outrageously over-the-top scenes with subtlety and believability, which she accomplishes beautifully. Seydoux has the ability be affable while also coldly staring into your soul, which fits perfectly with her role as France De Meurs The shots where Seydoux stares directly into the camera for a prolonged period of time leave the viewer hypnotized by her vividly blue eyes and force one to contemplate her character’s sincerity.
France is available to rent on Kino Now and all other major Video on Demand (VOD) platforms beginning tomorrow, February 22nd.