Cinefranco 2020: Our Review of ‘Au nom de la terre’

Cinefranco 2020: Our Review of ‘Au nom de la terre’

Au nom de la terre‘s protagonist is Pierre Jarjeau (Guillaume Canet), who spends year after year tending to his goat and wheat farm. The experience of reading about Terre and watching it for the first time is a rollercoaster. Pierre makes risky decisions, which makes viewers compare his risks with the ones they take. But repeat viewings are eye opening, highlighting the film’s focus on Pierre’s ambitions and the paperwork to make that happen.

This is also my first experience with the apparent subgenre that is French farm cinema, which opposes the country’s international reputation and diverse output. Nonetheless, what’s striking here, aside from the financials, are the personalities. Pierre is as stubborn as his father Jacques (Rufus), who derides his son for every decision he makes. Proving Jacques wrong contributes to Pierre’s undoing, because the former might just be right about putting which eggs in which basket.

There are two criticisms I have against Terre. The first, and perhaps its minor reputation precedes it, but there’s this feeling of dread in most scenes. It’s as if it’s making its viewers guess which moment is going to be the one to put Pierre under. The second is how much it winks. When the setback finally comes to the Jarjeaus, his wife Claire (Veerle Baetens) reassures him, obviously wrongly, that their debt’s still fine.

Those criticisms are valid, as well as how Edouard Bergeron’s film probably isn’t teaching any new lessons. But those lessons are still reminders, since viewers do tend to forget how difficult life is for others. Pierre is as ambitious as Bergeron in making a film as many things as possible. It’s a character study, a family portrait, and social commentary all in one. It shows the working man’s emotional toll in an effective, empathetic manner.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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