An astonishingly distinctive and distinguished work that deftly blends the avant-garde, high wire performance and assured storytelling.
The second instalment in a projected trilogy by artist and filmmaker Andrew Kötting, Ivul marks the director’s successful return to full-length narrative features following almost a decade of work on a series of diverse multi-media projects. It is an astonishingly distinctive and distinguished work that deftly blends the avant-garde, high wire performance and assured storytelling.
A family drama in which the close relationship between teenage siblings Alex (the remarkable and beguiling Jacob Auzanneau, a trained acrobat who performs with Cirque du Soleil) and older sister Freya (Adélaïde Leroux) increases to such an intensity that it develops sexual overtones, the film examines the repercussions of the discovery of this transgression by the domineering head of the family.
Ivul père (played with a mix of gruffness and irascible likeability by leading French character actor Jean-Luc Bideau) banishes Alex, demanding that he never set foot on his land again. The boy takes the dictate literally, clambering to the roof before eking out an existence in the treetops close to his former home. From this vantage point Alex witnesses the gradual disintegration of his father’s health, his mother Marie’s gestures towards infidelity, and subsequently the slow death of his parents’ marriage.
Relocating to the French Pyrenees after UK funding fell through, the French language Ivul is infused with an otherworldly sensibility that lends it an intoxicating, enigmatic feel. Kötting, who joins a recent band of leftfield British filmmakers including Peter Strickland, Ben Hopkins and Thomas Clay plying their trade abroad, is known for his tendency towards sonic and visual experimentation, and incorporating archive footage to compelling effect.
Unlike previous work, however, the concentration here is upon narrative thrust and the subtle revelation of tensions within the flawed but functioning family unit. Closely informed by Philip Trevelyan’s The Moon and the Sledgehammer, the film retains a characteristic confronting of landscape that’s also reminiscent of Werner Herzog.
The bucolic elements in all their variety – harsh, unforgiving and tranquil – are beautifully foregrounded in the frame and actively incorporated into Ivul’s very fabric and texture. Ambitious, challenging and yet also accessible, this is Kötting’s most sensory and purely satisfying feature to date.
A new fiction feature from one of the UK’s most idiosyncratic and singular talents.
Curbing his experimental tendencies, Kötting has produced a tender, poignant and affecting look at family dynamics.
One of the finest British features of the year.