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LOCARNO 2023 Cineasti del presente

Review: Camping du Lac


- Eléonore Saintagnan offers up a diary gradually overtaken by fiction to explore the founding narratives imbuing a land which awakens her imagination

Review: Camping du Lac
Eléonore Saintagnan in Camping du Lac

Trained as a documentary-maker in Lussas before notably spending time in Le Fresnoy, Eléonore Saintagnan is developing her career along hybrid lines, between documentary or experimental films and plastic arts. Her medium-length film Une fille d’Ouessant did the rounds in numerous festivals, including Visions du Réel where it won the Best Short Film trophy. Her new film, Camping du Lac [+see also:
interview: Éléonore Saintagnan
film profile
, which is selected for the Locarno Film Festival’s Cineasti del Presente section, sees her fictionalising her documentary approach, associating reality with mythical tales and turning to hagiography as much as to folklore.

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In the beginning was the Word. "I’ve got a really funny thing to tell you", the off-camera voice of the narrator/director confides, immediately setting out the film’s proclivity for all things strange and starting out like a journal. Eléonore really needs to see the sea, so she jumps into her car and heads west. But her speedy car breaks down in the middle of the countryside, as if to stop her from going round in circles. She finds herself trapped, the victim of an enforced break, right in the heart of Brittany. Brought to a standstill in the temporary refuge of a mobile home, she treats herself to a view over a lake, since the sea’s no longer an option. As she randomly crosses paths with the campsite regulars, she reconnects with her old childhood habits and with a time when she spent hours watching her neighbours.

Her peregrinations lead her ever deeper into the lands of Guerlédan Lake, but also into her own imagination, summoning the memory of Saint Corentin and offering up a delightfully artisanal hagiography of the man who spoke to his fish. Following in his footsteps, the story catapults us into a new, spooky time in which creatures and legendary monsters each have their place. The banks of the lake become a place of pilgrimage and recover a touristic sheen of a kind the region hasn’t seen in a long time.

Armed with her camera to capture the noises of nature – and her neighbours’ conversations – Eléonore – both the heroine and the director - sets about amplifying reality. Everything can be fictionalised, posing the timeworn question: what if? The film’s aesthetic is playful and cobbled together, in the vein of childhood games, mischievously availing itself of whatever comes to hand: a country singer, a firework, a dried-up lake…

Eléonore Saintagnan explores the delicate art of invention - hers, and that of her neighbours, too, who re-write their story according to their hopes and flaws - with an economy of means which lends the story soul and helps make it as tangible as possible in her charming fantasy world.

Camping du Lac is produced by Michigan Films (Belgium) in co-production with Ecce Films (France), who are also handling international sales. The film is one of a variety of projects supported by the lightweight productions initiative, overseen by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre.

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(Translated from French)

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