Dir.: Simon Lavoie; Cast: Nathalie Doummar, Monique Gosselin; Canada 2020, 103 min.
Canadian writer/director Simon Lavoie borrows heavily from Bergman and Tarkovsky for this sketchy story about civil war in an unknown country. Using odd formats, like a 11:8 ratio, Lavoie’s feature relies on the stunning black-and-white photography of his DoP Simran Dewan – but you cannot rely on images alone to carry a film, however enigmatic.
Filmed in Quebec, Canada No Trace opens with a four-minute close-up of rails, filmed from the moving handcar, which is owned by ‘N’ (Gosselin), who looks like a trapper from a Western. She later emerges a hardened people smuggler who is guiding Awa (Doummar) and her baby daughter. N is afraid the child’s crying might alarm the guards at the border. But all goes well, and Awa will eventually meet up with her husband. But N loses her vehicle – and soon – her way in the forest where she later meets Awa, who has ben raped. N also finds the body of Awa’s husband, and her daughter who has been burned on the sticks.
The two survivors are hostile, with Awa, a Muslim, constantly praying. Lavoie wisely leads leaves the final stretch of his feature open-ended fitting for a film with such a flimsy narrative.
A heavy, menacing score underlines the tone of gloom and doom and the threatening atmosphere, the screen goes blank for a time without any explanation and sometimes garbled language replaces proper dialogue. Nulle Trace is dressed up as arthouse fare, the title ironically symbolic of the lack of artistic coherence. AS
NULLE TRACE OPENS SLAMDANCE FESTIVAL 2021 FEBRUARY 12-25 PARK CITY UTAH.