The IFI French Film Festival
Monday, 20th November 2011

Lights Out

(Simon Werner a Disparu)

The First-Time Directors section of this year’s IFI French Film Festival presented the debut features of three filmmakers. Fabrice Gobert’s impressive Lights Out (Simon Werner a Disparu) was first shown on Saturday afternoon and had a second screening on Monday. The film was entered into the Un Certain Regard section of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Lights Out is structured around the lives and events of young students at a suburban French high school during the early 1990s after the mysterious disappearance of classmate Simon Werner. The film opens on the night of one of the students’ 18th birthday party when a gruesome discovery triggers off the narrative’s events as lived by each student closely involved. As others start to fail to turn up to class, all sorts of rumours and gossip begin to spread. Gobert’s direction is full of clever misdirection as his handling of the plot through the film’s structure and content ensures that it is constantly veering off in other directions.

Each perspective of the events inform the viewer little by little recreating the facts of what has actually happened in fragments without ever fully putting the pieces of the jigsaw together.

Sonic Youth provide an inspired original soundtrack of atmospheric instrumental tracks that make for a fitting backdrop to some great performances from the young cast, in particular Selma El Mouissi, who plays Laetitia, the punk with a heart.

Another First-Time Directors screening of the festival on Monday was Roland Edzard’s The End of Silence (La Fin du silence) a bleak tense drama that follows Jean, a mentally unstable youth, lashing around the forest with a rifle in hand – never a good scenario. Oh yeh, not forgetting that his family are staying in a cabin in these very woods – and his mother’s gone missing…

There were further reasons to be wary of them there woods later on that evening as Monday concluded with Outside Satan (Hors Satan), Bruno Dumont’s visually arresting film concerning the unique relationship between a recluse drifter and an enigmatic young farm girl. The film reveals itself to be much more than expected as it shifts definition and mutates into a sort of spiritual treatise.

Steven Galvin


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