The topics of “the idiot of a small city” is an old theme in films. French director Joël Brisse deals with this theme in his film “The End of the Animal Reign” (La Fin du Règne Animal), one of competing films in the Turin Film Festival.
The film’s main character, Noel, is not a mere idiot whom the village people and children would simply laugh at. He is a different kind of man. He thinks in a different way. In other words, he is an example of an outcast and unadapted person, someone who refuses to be a social conformist and rather follows his own intuition in seeing and judging things. In this sense, he faces the greedy and complacent businessmen in the village. He opposes them in his own primitive way, as things for him are either black or white. He can’t play the game of compromise.
His relation to people is rather full of despair. To people, he prefers nature with its elements. He finds refuge in soil, clay, plants, birds and animals. These are his real friends.
For sure, he has a touch of insanity, but in the same time he is gifted, blessed with a heavenly touch, and has a heart of gold.
Only with his bed-ridden mother and his child niece, Noel has a sound relationship characterized by trust, intimacy and understanding. They are the only ones who believe in his way of thinking, his complicity with nature, and that he’s gifted by God. Their beautiful spiritual relation is the illuminating point in his life and as well in the film.
When Olivia, a new primary teacher, comes to the village, she manages to get all the hidden sensualities out of Noel, for the first time in his life. Olivia is sympathetic to him, but can’t comprehend his peculiar behavior which she considers primitive. But she is still the only person that has a great influence on Noel. When his beloved sheep were to be slaughtered, after an infectious disease had been found, he locked himself together with the sheep on the farm, threatening to kill (with a blank bullets rifle) any cops approaching, and Olivia was the only person allowed to enter, in her hope to make him surrender and to free the infected sheep. They exchanged moving and emotional words. Olivia explained him that “a woman can like you, but must not love you”. In that same moment, the beautiful hope was taken away from Noel and his one-sided love for Olivia was doomed.
With the help of his niece, Noel gathered all the animals in the village, horses, dogs, cats, mice, cows and birds and again locked himself up with the animals and burned down the whole sleeping quarter of the farm.
The nature of the subject, in addition to the shooting locations provided good opportunities for the director to make great shots and landscape scenes: seas, mountains, greeneries and sky.
The use of music was just perfect in the right moments, nteracting with the story line.
The rhythm coped up with such events happening in a small village except for few scenes of length and boredom. The actor playing Noel is a successful choice especially with his big body and primitive gestures.
“The End of the Animal Reign” was awarded best film by the International Jury.
© FIPRESCI 2003