Wednesday, February 22, 2012

La Guerre est Declare Review

Based on a true story, "La Guerre est Declaree" ("Declaration of War") presents the story of two young parents who must come to terms with the fact that their infant has a brain tumor. Despite the tragic and exposed nature of the material, Director Valerie Donzelli has no quams about presenting her own story (she acts in the film as well) with a lightness and joviality of a fairy tale that while never undercutting the tragedy, certainly makes for a more uplifting journey.

Valerie Donzelli plays Juliet alongside true life husband (also screenwriter of the film) Jeremie Elkaim as... Romeo (the film makes an explicit joke about this early on). The two meet and become instantly drawn to each other. They quickly elope and soon thereafter find themselves as young parents of Adam who seems to be abnormal. The problems slowly creep up on them and the viewer and create an anxiety as one ponders what could be wrong with Adam. Finally, Juliet finds out that her son has a brain tumor and the rest of the film is devoted to Romeo and Juliet's attempts to save their son.

As aforementioned, the material is relentless, as Juliet and Romeo both struggle not only to save their child, but with their own immaturity. It is rather clear from the increasing turmoil surrounding their relationship that they were never prepared for this. Romeo, like his Shakespearean counterpart, is volatile; Juliet, a whole lot more patient and controlled is certainly overwhelmed at having to take on a great deal of responsibility on her own.

The film proceeds with a great deal of whimsy and swagger. Brilliant colors litter the frame throughout suggesting vibrancy rather than death and decay. Montages permeate the film emphasizing Romeo and Juliet's everyday activities, including activities they do for fun; once more emphasizing their vitality and attempts to maintain a positive outlook despite the small chances. There is even a sing-song moment as Romeo and Juliet, miles apart sing a duet to one another. It comes completely out of left field, but it adds romantic candor and supports the fairy tale quality of the film. In a tragic moment, in which Juliet makes the big revelation to Romeo and her loved ones Donzelli utilizes Vivaldi's "Winter" to underscore the tragedy. The violin's upper register in this piece never sounded so grueling, full of pain, almost a screech of horror than in this context. Many of Donzelli's choices initially seem strange, but their power comes from that unexpected quality. The film constantly challenges its audience with its approach to different material.

As the film concludes, one comes to the understanding of why Donzelli chose to tell such a personal, yet ordinary story in the frame of a fairy tale. For her, this story, her own, is truly magical and her ability to look back at it in a new perception has clearly allowed her to present it not as a tragic existential story, but as one celebrating the will to live and winning the war to preserve it.


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