Festival Review: Boris Without Béatrice (2016)

Boris Without Beatrice

Vibrant, ridiculous and bombastic, Denis Côté’s Boris Without Beatrice treads a deliciously new path of metaphor and internalised anxiety.


by Mark Wilshin

Boris Without Beatrice

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Leaving all sense of realism behind, Denis Côté’s Boris Without Beatrice follows a wealthy industrialist coping with his wife’s absence due to a severe mental illness. Good looking, rich, well dressed, intelligent and cultured, Boris (James Hyndman) isn’t just any businessman, but in an explosive scene at the start ribbing point-of-sales protocol, it becomes apparent Boris isn’t to be messed with either. As we witness him converse with his wife’s carer Klara (Isolda Dychauk), appeal to the mayor to asphalt his road, make pillow talk with his office fling Helga (Dounia Sichov) or come face to face with l’Inconnu (Denis Lavant), he’s consistently (and often quite unexpectedly) reproached for being proud. And so to reclaim his wife from her serious bout of melancholia, Boris attempts to humble himself – seeking reconciliation with his mother and daughter. With cine-film flashbacks of Boris’s memories with Béatrice and extreme close-ups of boiling kettles and lemon cutting knives, Côté’s style is certainly a visceral one. And even though its plot briefly degenerates into something akin to a French farce in which all of Boris’s wives -quietly mad, flaming mad and raving mad – descend on the family home in something that feels like male-centred misogyny, as Boris Without Beatrice kicks into the final reel, the film takes on a new orbit – the helicopter metamorphosed into a metaphor for black melancholy now lifted. And as a new and improved Boris returns to Beatrice we realise that maybe it was Boris who was absent all along. Béatrice Sans Boris in fact.

Boris Without Béatrice is now showing at the 66th Berlin Film Festival

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