UMP Recommends – Elephant Song

A psychologist and his patient play a game of an alleged crime and lies covering it in this superbly acted drama by Charles Biname.


Charles Biname’s film is a provocative insight into the beauty of psychology, revealing how complicated this art really is, when confronted with an exceptional individual. The film, backed up by noteworthy camerawork and solid performances by Xavier Dolan and Bruce Greenwood, is a hypnotizing artwork, engaging both emotionally and intellectually. 

Michael (Xavier Dolan) is a patient in a psychological ward. When his shrink dissapears in rather bizarre circumstances, the head of the hospital – Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood) calls Michael for an interrogation. Therefore, Michael lures his temporary psychiatrist into a tricky game of lies and dead ends.

There is an inevitably tragic ending, which we’re waiting for, while slowly engaging into the tricky mind game of Michael and Toby. Xavier Dolan proves himself to be multi-talented in broader than only-directorial terms, stealing the show for himself as ward’s troublesome patient. Michael is a very complex character – he is anxious about his loneliness, hungering for attention, but at the same time fully aware of his own value and intelligence – eventually causing his touchiness to be exposed. As his little games and chats with doctor Green prolong, he seeks for a trustful interlocutor, but mostly – someone willing to listen to his words cautiously, reading between the lines. Dolan cherishes his character by taking advantage of details in his acting performance – he might seem over-combined at times, but eventually, him and Bruce Greenwood are two reasons why “Elephant Song” ends up as such a powerful film.

Nicolas Billon deserves a great deal of appreciation for the story he has written. The dialogues are well-thought, delivered in a convincing manner by the cast. Michael is fascinating the way Kevin Spacey’s Prot in “K-Pax” was – a deeply rooted trauma was the force leading to a complete “stratification” of their minds. The neatly-plotted story is greatly translated into directorial langauge of Charles Biname. The camera work is very subtle, almost intimately observing the strange relationship of Michael and doctor Green. Undoubtedly, Biname’s film  is sometimes a bit claustrophobic, but it somehow constitutes a reflection of main characters’ confines: Michael “craves” for freedom and seeing the world outside the locked room and the ward, whilst Green tries to escape from his everyday problems and memories he wishes to bury in the past.

In all that digging into a mistifying maze of truth and lie, the Belgian director managed to tell a very simple story – and this is what constitutes the greatest value of “Elephant Song”. It’s a story about the most ordinary needs, which once they remain unfulfilled, lead to frustration and despair. On top of that, I couldn’t agree more with Michael’s ultimate desire – gaining freedom – to be the most paramount of all. And watching “Elephant Song” made me question, whether we can truly experience freedom nowadays. But let that be a thought I keep to myself.

UMP Grade: 40.5/50

(Cinematography: 8.5, Plot: 8, Acting: 8.5, Soundtrack: 7.5, Quaintness: 8)


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