Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Set on the fog-addled islet of Bannec in Brittany, Finis Terræ tells the story of Jean-Marie and Ambroise, two teenagers working as seaweed collectors for the summer. When a mischievous caper involving a bottle of alcohol gets them in trouble with their superior, the boys fall out, but when Ambroise gets an infection in a cut on his finger, Jean-Marie does what he can to help. On the hunt for a doctor, he rows through perilous weather to Ouessant, the nearest port, little knowing that a doctor is already on his way on a separate boat. As the crashing waves surround the island in a haze, everyone begins to wonder what has become of Jean-Marie.

Expressionist director Jean Epstein’s films often convey simple stories in a headily lyrical manner, and Finis Terræ is no exception to the rule. With its majestic photography and meditative close-ups, one could be forgiven for thinking that the film is communicating a profound statement on humanity in every single frame. Visual motifs of broken bottles and shells echo the day-to-day approach to life the boys share, and an intermittent shot of names being crossed out gives a powerful sense of time passing with very little action. Epstein even manages to use the film’s silence to great effect, as Jean-Marie’s attempts to shout to the doctor go apparently unnoticed. Simultaneously romantic and realistic, Finis Terræ is a gorgeous essay on human nature and endurance, painted with the very skilled brush of one of cinema’s greatest poets.

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