MARIE BAIE DES ANGES
Starring: Vahina Glocante & Frederic
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Manuel Pradal
Producer: Philippe Rousselet
Writer: Manuel Pradal
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(Pa, LL, V, S, NN, A) Pagan worldview; 23 obscenities; boys beat up boy & boy shoots boy; implied sexuality; partial female frontal nudity; and, alcohol use.
A compelling story about two lost teenagers, MARIE BAIE DES ANGES offers no solution to the sinful lives it depicts. The movie depicts a chaotic, random, meaningless world without redemption, where people use each other and, in the end, can't be trusted.
The art movie houses of America are often filled with foreign movies about immoral characters filled with angst, trying to escape the imprisonment of their modern urban lives. The French production of MARIE BAIE DES ANGES is no exception to that trend. A story about two lost teenagers, it offers no solution to the sinful lives it depicts.
In the movie, 17-year-old Orso roams the streets and beaches of the French Riviera as a boy capable of any crime and deception. He is stealing money to buy a gun, only to be duped out of that money himself. He meets up with Marie, a 15-year-old girl whose sights are set on being wined and dined by local American sailors. After Orso escapes temporary imprisonment and Marie is dumped by the sailors, the two come together for what seems to be a refuge from the world. They find an idyllic island from which they can escape the sins of their past.
Orso can't escape who he is, however, and seems to miss the danger of the streets. Although he and Marie have a warm safety together, he has her meet with the sailors once again to steal a gun, which eventually leads to a tragic end.
The bay around Nice on the Riviera is called "Baie des Anges," meaning Bay of Angels. The name is based on a legend that a species of sharks called "angels of the sea" made their home there. Two huge rocks shaped like fins warned potential intruders of their presence. Once invasions became rare, the legend goes, the sharks turned on the princes of the bay to satisfy their need for blood. So the princes agreed to sacrifice a child to them.
These rock fins become a metaphor for the combination of angel and shark that exists in the lives of these homeless adolescents. The movie combines the natural beauty of the sea as a Garden of Eden with the presence of danger that the young drifters attracted to it bring. The story has a deeper resonance because the victims here are children, awash in a land without a compass and no one to guide them home.
The acting in this piece is naturalistic and convincing. Director Manuel Pradal, who also wrote the movie, wanted realism so much that he spent a year searching for actual adolescent drifters to star in the movie. Their acting by Vahina Glocante and Frederic Malgras as Marie and Orso is a tribute to his direction, because they are very convincing.
The cinematography is lush and colorful, evoking the beauty of the Mediterranean against the harshness of the streets. Pradal uses many close-ups and shaky hand-held shots which add to the tension and danger of MARIE BAIE DES ANGES.
While the movie is well-done in its elements and the story is perhaps representative of the young gypsy life in the South of France, the story is a tragedy. The tragedy occurs without any comment from the filmmakers as if to say, "This is the way it is, too bad." Pradal depicts a chaotic, random, meaningless world without redemption, where people use each other and, in the end, can't be trusted. It is a well-done depiction of a sort of Hell that humanity without God has created. Thus, atheism actually leads to paganism and nihilism.
As in many most French art films, the script is without a classic three-act structure, and so the drama unfolds unexpectedly. This works because it is consistent with the theme of the movie, that life is chaotic and inevitably tragic. The characters in MARIE BAIE DES ANGES dance through life, victims of their own godlessness and don't have the power to change or break out of their eventual fate. Of course, that is why Jesus Christ came to earth to die for our sins and to give us that power to break away from our sinful nature. As Paul writes in Romans 8:2, "Through Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."