At one time I thought I had a moral responsibility towards my fellow man to go and see this film. “Will it snow for Christmas”, together with “Love Stories”, which I haven’t seen yet, had seemed for several weeks to be the intelligent and refined choice for those who didn’t want to Spice up their lives too much. Have you seen Benigni’s latest film yet? If so, you can now choose between the directing debut by the writer of the screenplay for “The lovers on the Pont-Neuf” or the umpteenth cinematic offering by Kieslowski’s assistant, otherwise you’re not worthy of making it through the festive season unharmed.
So, I go and see it. It’s a pleasant “obligation”, but it’s still an obligation! I went into the cinema with the word “feminist” buzzing annoyingly in my head, so I sat down expecting to see a peasant woman who beats her brute of a husband to death with a hoe or become the mayor of an important Parisian city amid throngs of celebrating women.
I didn’t get any of these. Sandrine Veysset puts her name to this rustic film, with no music except for the noise of the tractors and the countryside whose colours are delicately depicted by the passing of the seasons. The more you see of the film, however, the more you realise that you are watching a modern story with children and hens, jokes and dangers, silence and voices.
The film is simple and immediate like the characters themselves (or vice versa) and she doesn’t exaggerate in portraying either the pain or the serenity. Dominique Reymond plays the part of the mother of six innocent children subjected to the continuous abuse of their stepfather who, as head of the farm, makes them do adults work and then treats them like worthless kids for the rest of the time. The stepfather is actually married to another woman, who also has a farm, and who he often sleeps with so that he can run her farm too. The mother and children are only too aware of the situation, but she, more than the others, doesn’t seem to be so submissive. Only, she doesn’t seem to rebel too much either, considering she has a husband who seems only to notice her after lunch when he wants a bit of company.
The situation, which by now has become unbearable, comes to a head on
Christmas night. She goes into the town, spends all the money on a slap up meal with the children, seeing as the husband is with his
“legal” family, and then puts all the children to bed in her room with the excuse that they’ll be warmer if they all sleep together. The children don’t know what their mother has in mind but they’ll soon find out. A fresh fall of snow will interrupt everything.
The reduced dialogues, the lack of a soundtrack to move the scenes along, the direct and natural photography make “Will it snow for
Christmas?” a difficult film for the uninitiated. Veysset succeeds in all these things and her attempt to strip maternal love of useless cinematic frills is well aimed but I think we could have expected something a bit more original. The film is constantly suspended between fiction and documentary without ever really making a decision, leaving you unsure if it would have been better to develop the psychological side of the relationship between the characters or add a bit of emotion, even purposely, to involve the audience.
I discover at the end that Sandrine Veysset also wrote the screenplay.