That endless first love | The standard

child hearts

From: Olivia Rochette, Gerard-Jan Claes

With: Billie Meeussen, Lucas Roefmans (87 min.)

Exciting new things are not easy to recognize as such. In 1874, the French critic Louis Leroy dismissed Monet’s work as ‘an impression, that’s for sure’. It must be said that Monet left a little more impression than Leroy, who stupid Impressionism gave its name. The new often comes as a shock, but much more often it is so unpretentious and deceptively simple that you risk not recognizing it as such. ‘That’s not art,’ we say with a grin.

An impression is also child hearts, a Flemish film by Olivia Rochette and Gerard-Jan Claes that treads a new path so subtly and unpretentiously, that you would think they were wandering. At first glance it seems like a woodenly acted fiction film with sometimes artificial dialogues. In reality child hearts a masterly, unconventional documentary that brings the viewer uncomfortably close to two young people and something as fragile as a first love. This was also recognized at the Berlin festival, where the film was awarded.

Billie Meeussen and Lucas Roefmans are not actors: they are two 18-year-olds from Brussels who casually and with admirable courage open the door to their daily lives full of hormones, desires, dreams, doubts and fears. Can their fledgling love survive the tipping point of that last summer for the rest of their lives? Lucas would rather live with his friends than with her.

Their confusion is also that of the viewer. Is love, even in its most documentary form, not fiction? How long are we willing to believe in it? This is film reinvented.

Clothes from 1996

Rochette and Claes are filmmakers in search of a new language for a new era, as the boys and girls of the nouvelle vague once did, in films and magazines. Their Cahiers du Cinema is Sabzian, a film essay site, and they are involved with film distributor Avila and production house Accattone Films.

Is love, even in its most documentary form, not fiction? How long are we willing to believe in it?

But their film is far from (pseudo-)intellectual. child hearts has so much candor that it makes you soft. The filmmakers present it seemingly without artifice, in the ugly colors of today – and the ugly clothes of 1996, which are now back in fashion. They also capture something of this zeitgeist and of Generation Z. It is reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s time capsule Dazed and confused and the way he with boyhood fiction and documentary on top of each other

But Rochette and Claes, like the South Korean film maker Hong Sang-soo, also dare to let their film ripple unabashedly – ​​life does that for impatient teenagers too. How poplar leaves flutter in the wind is their most impressive special effect. Impressionism.

The corona crisis has rightly been relegated to far in the background, a news item on the radio. Teenagers are teenagers despite their environment and no pandemic can change that. Possible criticism: isn’t this all navel-gazing? It breathes very much ‘Dansaert-Vlamingen’, busy with only their own little world. You can also get that feeling with the movie un monde: if you put your microscope on something very small, don’t you lose sight of the bigger picture? In Ukraine, corpses lie on the street.

But isn’t that the prerogative of art? What could be greater for two eighteen-year-olds than that first love? That’s the heartwarming thing: young people will always remain young. The phallus impudicus is already in bloom, the leaves are getting trees and here lands a film about a first great love that can melt your heart. If you look with love.

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