Writing this up a few days after seeing it, the image of it still retains distinct clarity in my mind. ‘Heal The Living’ (adapted from ‘Mend the Living’ by Maylis de Kerangal) tells the story of a transplant and those affected by a unique set of circumstances surrounding it.
We are first introduced to Simon (Gabin Verdet), a 19-year-old surfer hospitalised after a traffic accident. His critical condition alerts parents who rush to the hospital and are then implicated in a series of decisions paving the rest of the film. We also go a little deeper into the headspace of hospital staff, including co-ordinator Thomas (Tahar Rahim), who has a difficult job in communicating between all parties and therefore all strands of the film. In the final part of the story we are introduced to Claire (Anne Dorval), mother of two adult sons. Dorval is fantastical as Claire, viewing life from a isolated perspective, suffering a heart condition
The nature of the different elements is evident in the cinematography and editing. We see some scenes literally blur together, the concrete road surface becoming an open sea. This technique is used sparsely. An overkill on this would’ve looked cheap, and immediately confusing to the viewer. The blue hue of the film is again low-key, yet contributing to the completed feature.
We also get long takes of the characters travelling via car, public transport, and bike. The camera is often positioned on the exterior of the vehicle, or in such a way on the interior that displays the scenery behind or ahead coming into focus. The real shift in the film is to display the characters lives in a huge incomprehensible world. We see that a narrative about organ transplants hints on something wider; a theme of complete randomness within the human condition. Each of these shots are well considered, resulting in something that is stylistically touching.
The Alexandre Desplat score adds to this, as something more subtle yet insistent. Each of the scenes operates separate from time and space in a sense. The third segment of the film is presented at first without any exposition. A flashback featuring Simon falling in love is presented in a similar way. In different hands there would be an obvious indication of change in time and location (a caption, voice over, cliched editing technique, and so on). It’s great that Katel Quillevere has instead deployed more muted film-making to allow a picture that can be realised by audiences on an individual level.
The film, in many ways, is bigger than just the stories it portrays. The locations and cityscapes are realised to make the multi-narrative feature seem to occupy only a small place in a huge, almost inconceivable world. There’s beauty in ‘Heal The Living’. It’s emotional, and moving in places, but never fully depressing.
| Zach Roddis
Drama | France, 2016 | 15 | 31st April 2017 (UK) | Curzon Artificial Eye | Dir.Katell Quillévéré | Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval,Gabin Verdet