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Review: Water Lilies-Birth of the Octopuses (2007)

Director: | 85 minutes | drama | Actors: , , , , , , , , , , , , Christophe Van de Velde,

Debutante Céline Sciamma knows exactly how to portray the perception of fifteen and sixteen-year-old girls with “Naissance des pieuvres”. Not an original starting point, but the elaboration of the idea is. Rarely does a film provide such a genuine and recognizable picture of the insecurities, desires and dreams of teenagers like this French gem. The eagerness to belong, the musing about the first time having sex, the actual performance of that first time, the mutual cruelty, the dialogues (which by the way are taught just right)… it has become a well-tuned production. Parisian Sciamma, who graduated from La Fémis with the screenplay for this film, took over directing on the advice of Xavier Beauvois, who was on the exam committee.

Marie is an introverted girl, a late bloomer, who, with her boyish figure, doesn’t look quite as old as Floriane, admired by her. The also fifteen-year-old Floriane is seen as the slut of the neighborhood, everyone is convinced that she has already done “it” with a lot of boys and the girl herself does not do anything to improve this image, she only does there, already provocative, a little extra. Floriane is the star of the synchronized swimming team. Anne, Marie’s best friend, is a chubby girl who does not really excel in this sport and is not as marketable as Floriane. She is madly in love with François, but the latter only has eyes for Floriane. Marie makes friends with Floriane and in the summer that follows, each of these three girls takes a big step towards adulthood. A lot of conversations take place in the locker room of the local swimming pool, but even more there is gossip, talk and lies.

The intimate mood in the film is enhanced by the sublime aqua tunes of Jean-Baptiste de Laubier (Para One). The fact that the girls participate in synchronized swimming gives the cinematographer Crystel Fournier the opportunity to shoot beautiful images that make the poetic atmosphere even more intense. There is also room for humor, especially in the scenes with Anne, who, for example, has come up with a very innovative way of shoplifting. Due to Sciamma’s conscious choice not to let young people use mobile phones and other contemporary techniques such as MP3 players or the Internet, “Naissance des pieuvres” has become a timeless document. This is also reflected in the clothing style, the short skirt that Marie wears could just as well be worn in the 1970s as in the present day. Also, the absence of adults in the film is very strong. In this way the viewer stays close to the skin of the three protagonists, without being distracted by parent-child relationships. This also reflects the experience of Marie, Anne and Floriane in an excellent way, because when you are fifteen, after all, the only thing that matters is yourself. “Naissance des pieuvres”: the literal translation of the French title means birth of the octopuses, which refers to the scrambling of arms and legs in the water (which thus looks like an octopus). The birth of a talented filmmaker is certainly a fact.

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