Film of the Week: Pola X

In collaborating with one another, Leos Carax and Scott Walker prove they’re a match made in Heaven. Or perhaps more appropriately, Hell. Walker’s soundscape already conjures images reminiscent of Dante’s descent into the underworld. Just earlier this year, Godard employed Walker’s “Cossacks Are” to open The Image Book, establishing a nightmarish mood. Walker’s music, then, can be understood as being associated with notions of truth and madness. No less is true in Pola X. Based off Herman Melville’s Pierre, Pola X revolves around Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu), a novelist who leaves his bourgeois life behind when a mysterious beggar reveals herself to be his half-sister, Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva). Carax’s characters are ones beset and controlled by passion. The story of Mauvais Sang (1986), for example, takes place in a world where people who make love without emotional involvement are killed by the fictional STBO disease. In Pola X, Depardieu, channeling his father Gerard, is desperate to become a prophet by way of his new novel and lifestyle. He wishes to destroy the old-world, but as his agent points out, perhaps he’s too naïve to do so. Still, however, that leaves him the option to destroy himself and Pola X chronicles that journey. When Pierre finally confronts Isabelle, it’s within a thicket at nighttime. Isabelle begins to walk through the woods as she tells Pierre the story of her life—living through the war, attempting to survive thereafter, and being taken to France by their father. Isabelle’s manner of speaking, stinted due to childhood neglect, takes on a poetic approach. The camera tracks the siblings, but in the shades of darkness, the two are hardly visible. This is the world they’ll inhabit for the rest of the film. A world cloistered. Throughout the film, Carax employs darkness to envelope the two, most memorably during a sex scene when the two become nothing more than one writhing mass. The threat of outside forces will be punctuated by Walker’s music—a dirge of heavy percussion and minimal drones.

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