Into the Forest, 2016.
Directed by Gilles Marchand.
Starring Jérémie Elkaïm, Timothé Vom Dorp, and Théo Van de Voorde.
Two young boys whose parents are divorced travel to Sweden to spend their vacation with their father. When he suggests they spend a few days at a lakeside cabin in the middle of a forest, the boys are delighted. But Benjamin, the elder son, starts to grow uneasy about their father’s strange behavior. And the more time that passes, the less their father seems to want to return home.
A psychological study in creeping terror and the uncanny feeling of premonition, Into the Forest (Dans la forêt) packs a powerful and disquieting punch. Seen mostly though the gaze of a troubled and possibly gifted youngster, the film provides a transportation back to childhood and the shifting realities of dream and trying to comprehend the motivations of adults in difficult situations.
Director Gilles Marchand takes a compelling approach to the story of a father’s journey across the wilds of Sweden with his two young sons. Bringing a fractured sense of the dad’s troubles to the screen, the film racks up the tension from the very beginning, with nothing quite appearing as it seems.
Youngest son Tom, has a premonition that something untoward is about to happen. Him and his older brother Benjamin are about to fly out to Sweden to visit their father, who soon shows himself to be obsessive, solitary and given to spending each night solemnly awake, eyes open, waiting for the morning. After an aggressive and unpredictable father creates trouble at his workplace, Tom witnesses a weird demonic figure prowling around just around the edges of sight. Tellingly, his brother is not aware of it.
The dad then packs everything up and tells the boys they’re going on a road trip out of town. From that point on, everything gets even more intensely strange, and without giving too much away, we become witnesses to both the extremes of human behaviour and also a touch of the unexplained and paranormal.
Into the Forest is billed in this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival in the French and Furious category, and this gives an indication of one of the emotions analysed in the film. The father (billed simply as Le père in the credits) played by Jérémie Elkaïm has a quiet anger about him, that looks set to go off at any point. The intensity of the performance is well balanced with the two younger actors Théo Van de Voorde playing Ben and Timothé Vom Dorp as Tom, a child who appears to share his father’s altered state of mind and way of seeing the world. The film artfully constructs a world playing the three characters off against each other. It does not stick to any traditional sense of genre, with psychological horror mixing in with family drama and surreal thriller to present a disturbing and beautifully magical feature.
Into the Forest is available to view as part of MyFrenchFilmFestival running from January 19th to February 19th 2018.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.