Make Believe Film Festival: The Five Devils

Directed by: Léa Mysius
Distributed by: Mubi

Written by Taylor Baker


Léa Mysius’s “The Five Devils” is a noteworthy sophomore film, not just in its accomplished delivery of craft but its effortlessness at capturing the story of a young girl time-traveling while a family and small community seem to splinter apart. “The Five Devils” begins with Adèle Exarchopoulos standing beside similarly dressed girls in glittering clothing as they stare at a fire engorging itself on a building. Then Adèle Exarchopoulos stares back into the camera. This scene serves as the plot device on which the film is built, her own time-traveling daughter serves as our eyes in this scene unbeknownst to us, and the fire similarly serves as a foundational trauma for the entire family. Changing the course of their coming lives.

Much of “The Five Devils” is centered on the relationships at the center of the Soler family, and what Adèle Excarchopoulos’s Joanne Soler does with her life. Years after the fire Exarchopoulos’s Joanne is working as an instructor at a pool, beside Daphne Patakia’s Nadine. Nadine had been burned terribly in the fire at the beginning of the film, losing her right eye and significantly scarring the right portion of her body. As the film continues we discover that Nadine suffered losses greater than the burns she received in that opening scene. And that those losses had become Joanne’s gains, this knowledge colors an early interaction Nadine has with Joanne’s daughter Vicky in a particular type of melancholy that one can only appreciate in retrospect. 

Alternating between voyeuristic aerial cinematography (with a particular scene homaging “The Shining”) and handheld cinematography that alternatingly puts you in the point of view of Vicky and in the immediacy of the lakeside, living room, and pool where many charged interpersonal conversations take place, “The Five Devils” washes over the viewer. Much like life was thrust on the young Vicky Soler. Cinematographer Paul Guilhaume who’s worked with Mysius before particularly excels in creating richly composed interiors that are blocked to take advantage of depth in the way he captures rooms, corners, and hallways. It seems a sheer coincidence that “The Five Devils” happens to include a time-traveler, it is neither the most interesting thing about it nor a particularly intriguing detail, it’s presented more as something that simply happens–like the weather.

After a promising debut with 2017’s “Ava,” writing credits on Jacques Audiard’s “Paris, 13th District” alongside both Jacques and Céline Sciamma, “The Five Devils” can almost be read as a line drawn in the sand. Léa Mysius has definitively shown herself as a robust storyteller and talented filmmaker, she’s here to stay.

“The Five Devils” Trailer

“The Five Devils” was screened as part of the inaugural edition of the Make Believe Seattle Film Festival.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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