The Swarm: Review

the swarm film Just Philippot

“The Swarm” is a French film present in the list of the 2020 International Critic’s Week (unfortunately cancelled due to covid), a parallel section of the Cannes Film Festival, which aims to discover new talents. 

“The Swarm” is Just Philippot’s first feature film, based on an original idea by Jérôme Genevray. It will go through several festivals such as the festival of Angoulême or Sitges before being known by the public during the international festival of the fantastic film of Gérardmer. 

The film takes place in a small town in the French countryside. Virginie Hébrard (played by Suliane Brahim) started growing grasshoppers after her husband died, in order to feed her two children Laura (played by Marie Narbonne) and Gaston (played by Raphael Romand). But her farm is far from working as she had hoped, and she will soon be, like many farmers in France, drowning in debt and not having enough to live on. 

At first, the film takes the direction of a social film, pointing out the difficulties that farmers can face in their job, such as lack of buyers or crop failure.  But this “social film” aspect will gradually plunge into a more fantastic horror. The film approaches the theme of sacrifice in a very interesting way. 

Financially supported by Karim (played by Sofian Khammes) a wine grower, Virginie Hébrard tries in vain to make her farm work until she loses her temper. This violent outburst will open the doors to madness when she realizes that grasshoppers react strangely to blood.

As if she had signed a pact with the devil, Virginie will gradually plunge into dementia and her obsession with grasshoppers will grow. As a metaphor for the condition of farmers, she will sacrifice her body and her soul to the point of exhaustion in order to survive.

The photography of the film, set in a beautiful French countryside, is very successful. The very precise visuals of the grasshoppers provoke a mix between fascination and disgust for these insects, which feed a feeling of unease. 

Through their evolution and their mutation, the grasshoppers become louder, more threatening. At the beginning of the film they were just harmless, but gradually become a real source of horror. 

The rhythm of the film is very well worked, some slowness, well executed, contributes to a progressive rise of tension and uneasiness.

Suliane Brahim of the Comédie Française, recently seen in Olivier Nakache’s “The Specials”, plays the character of Virginie remarkably well, a force of nature that seems to be led to the rupture. 

We can also notice the excellent performances of Sofian Khammes, revealed for the public in Romain Gavras’ “The World Is Yours” (2018) and Marie Narbonne, who recently had a small role in Quentin Dupieux’s “Mandibles.”a Both of these French actors look very promising.

Combining social drama and horror, “The Swarm” is an excellent first film for Just Phillippot, who manages to make a poignant film of a great scenaristic, visual and rhythmic quality. 

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