Human Flowers of Flesh | Locarno Film Festival 2022

August 9th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Helena Wittmann | Drama 106 mins.

Germany’s Helena Wittman made a name for herself five years ago with the experimental maritime debut Drift, and here takes another dip in the water with an enigmatic sea-faring piece that haunts the imagination – up to a point – with its woozy rhythm and limpid seascapes.

It follows a group of aimless yachties – a female captain Ida (Angeliki Papoulia) and her male sailors – who drift around the Mediterranean coast around Marseilles ending up in Sidi Bel Abbes (Algeria) when Ida becomes entranced with the vestiges of the French Foreign Legion and decides to the investigate further.

During this languorous cinematic voyage there are fleeting interludes that hint at romance for Ida and her crew but nothing of any substance in a scenario where style rather than substance is the order of the day. What starts as intriguing soon becomes torpid as we mull through the various enigmatic hints at our disposal that eventually leave us wondering – who exactly are these people, who is funding them, and what is end point of their dilettante journey into the unknown?

Women have long been portrayed in sea-going dramas – most recently in Wolfgang Fischer’s Styx where a lone woman sailor becomes involved with a group of migrants, and Lucie Borleteau’s Fidelio: Alice’s Journey a much more eventful odyssey where a female engineer entrances a male crew on board a commercial vessel, and, of course, Claire Denis’ all time classic Beau travail involving the French Foreign Legion on land (and also – curiously – starring Denis Lavant who appears here as ‘Galoup’). In comparison, while initially enjoyable, this is a flimsier arthouse film that could almost work as an art installation in somewhere like London’s Royal Academy. MT






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