LE CINQ DIABLES (The Five Devils) (France 2022) **½
Directed by Lea Mysius
Vicky (Sally Dramé), a strange and solitary little girl, has a magical gift: she can reproduce any scent she likes, and collects them in a series of carefully labeled jars. She has secretly captured the scent of Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos), her mother for whom she nurtures a wild, excessive love. When her father’s sister Julia (Swala Emati) bursts into their life, Vicky reproduces her smell and is transported into dark and archaic memories which lead her to uncover the secrets of her village, her family and her own existence.
Filmmakers appear to be fond of and quite frequently use pre-teen girls as their protagonist. The recent and excellent Irish film THE QUIET GIRL, nominated for this year’s Oscar for Best International feature is the best of the lot with a very simple story of a young girl spending a summer at her aunt’s while her mother is pregnant about toggle birth. THE FIVE DEVILS also sees a pre-teen, a precocious little child who learns too, about life in another coming-of-age story. As Jesus said in the Bible: “And a child shall lead them.” But there is one huge difference. between these two films. THE QUIET GIRL is simple but terribly effective making it one of the best films of the year. THE FIVE DEVILS, on the other hand, is an ambitious, in fact over ambitious project that the director takes many risks that does not always pay off. The girl here has power, power to store and create smell and to invoke memories. She does not always use her powers to good use. The film also tackles a gay and bi-relationship the girl’s mother has. Often too, the non chronological timeline of the film is confusing and disorientating, though one must give the director credit for trying, in her sophomore effort.
When the film works, it is beautiful, but when it is not the film can be quite annoying,
The best parts involve the director’s use of music. Music with the lyrics bookends the film as a car is driven along a highway. The Bonnie Tyler song “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, sung by the two women during a karaoke session also clearly gets the importance and point of their relationship across.
Director Mysius covers a lot of issues in her film from female and bi-relationships, coming-of-age, self discovery, bullying, racism, small town mentality, childhood fantasy among other minor ones.
THE FIVE DEVILS premiered last year at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight in which stranger films get a showcase. The film opens upon March the 24th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Not an easy watch but the film does have its pleasures.