In a small French village arrives an elk (élan in French) that walks on two legs, wears a trench coat, and communicates telepathically. Everyone he meets seems to accept him as if his presence is completely normal, except for a UFO fanatic who wants to meet and analyze him.
Director Etienne Labroue of Les Guignols de l’Info co-wrote L’Élan with Marc Bruckert and they created a marvelous fable here of a being on a quest to belong, finding a family ready to take him in and protect him. The story here is touching, funny, and sometimes sad. Bruckert and Labroue show a lot of talent in this sweet script that reminds the viewers of early Jean-Pierre Jeunet crossed with Quentin Dupieux. As this is Etienne Labroue’s first film, it shows a lot of promise and directorial talent.
The characters built by Labroue and Bruckert are a little cartoon-y but here it works given the story and the settings. The cast hired to bring those characters to life go for it with gusto and an impeccable sense of timing. The whole cast does this so well, it’s difficult to pick a stand-out. Aurelia Petit, Délia Espinat-Dief, Olivier Broche, Cyprien Dugas, et al deserve major kudos for fearlessly bringing their parts to life and not being afraid of looking a bit silly on screen. It all works in the end and brings a village of kooks to life for our entertainment. The narration is done in a way similar to Amélie but with a bit of a nuttier story which is told in a childhood story manner.
The way the film settings are and the way its shot ring out the ludique side of the story. Everyone and everything is brought together in a way that creates a fairytale-like atmosphere. The design of the élan himself is cartoonish with a touch of giant stuffed animal to the head’s look. His whole being is a bit disproportionate from itself, giving him a sweet disposition and style even though he could easily have been a bad guy. L’Élan is designed in a way to remind the viewers of childhood toys and TV shows, while his attitude and mannerism are quite child-like. He brings an outward innocence and allows the viewer to connect on a different level with the story through nostalgia and comfort.
L’Èlan is an entertaining comedy with a lot to offer. It takes a crazy, absurd idea and goes with it fully, giving the viewers a childhood fairytale but grown-ups. It’s almost innocent but not quite. It brings back a warm feeling while also reminding everyone of their need to belong.
Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.