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Review: Ste. Anne (2021)

Ste Anne Review

IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF STE. ANNE!

What is life but a series of experiments? What are dreams but incoherent projections of desires, hopes and wishes? What is art without challenge? Are we suppose to have our brains nurtured or defied? Ste. Anne is one of those types of films that exploit the most unusual way we appreciate the visual arts, with a melancholy that is driven by dreamlike images and experimental narrative approach. It’s a film that doesn’t fit in the common cinematic landscape, allowing the viewer to question its motivations and conclusions. Renée is a single mother that has been missing for almost four years, and leaves her young daughter called Athene to the care of her brother and his girlfriend Elenore. When she arrives again, everything changes for Athene, and their caretakers question what has been Renée up to alongside their family.

Ste Anne Review

Ste. Anne is definitely a non-linear product of art, which assumes an etherial posture (mostly driven by apparently random images and natural sounds) to provide an idea that what we are seeing are memories mixed with dreams and flashes of what would be a return to oneself’s origin. Directed by Rhayne Vermette, this independent production is something we rarely are able to encounter by going to a mainstream theater and will probably leave people with mixed opinions about it. From my perspective, Ste. Anne is something unique, which leaves room for many interpretations to what we are watching. It’s not perfect, as we needed to be more contextualized in who the characters are and in what place does the action take place; but there’s something addictive attached to this particular vision. It seems the director knows exactly where to sequence these seemingly random images and connect the dots by letting the viewer believe that these are some of Renée’s dreams and mindset ideas of her desire to reencounter her daughter.

While we may feel dizzy with the presentation of the images and filming style, these are essential to keep us wondering of what is in Vermette’s mind, and defy our brains to deconstruct this apparent dream. As this is a personal interpretation, I believe that Ste. Anne is more than meets the eye, disrupting the already highly abundant linear story, and setting us on a path to uncover for ourselves what is intended with its message. We don’t have much to rely on but our own imagination, and that is the true power that a film can provide us. We don’t necessarily have to be nurtured for our tastes, but defied by what is unusual in our connection to the visual arts.

Ste Anne Review

If Ste. Anne was to be a regular blockbustering film or an easy understandable exercise, it would lose its power. By mixing these images, filmed in a very specific format, Ste. Anne proves that by experimenting, we can leave room to the public’s imagination to thrive and be challenged in an healthy and creative way. Although not easy to follow, Ste. Anne should made us more aware of its surroundings by at least making us understand where it is set and why has Renée been missing for so long. But even still, we can only process this creative approach by letting us reach for our own conclusion, whether we think this is a dream of a mother who has somehow lost her way in life and wants to reconnect with her daughter; or just an eerie memory of a missing desire.

The best thing about this type of experimental cinema is that it doesn’t have to be direct, and captivates us to try and demistying it. Even with its flaws, Ste. Anne is something very special, challenging and an experience where each member of the audience will take their own conclusions and assumptions. Set to premiere in this year’s edition of Berlinale‘s Forum section, Ste. Anne will leave your brain constantly asking the same question over and over again: is this a dream? A product of imagination? Only oneself can reach a conclusion. This art isn’t made to impress, but to leave you thinking of it.

Ste Anne Review

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Title: Ste. Anne

Director: Rhayne Vermette

Cast: Isabelle d’Eschambault, Jack Theis, Valerie Marion, Dolorès Gosselin, Roger Vermette.

Duration: 80 min.

Trailer | Ste. Anne

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