The Girl from Nowhere (2012)
Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Cast: Virginie Legeay, Claude Morel, Lise Bellynck
Synopsis: Michel, a retired maths teacher, takes in a young injured woman he finds on his doorstep.
Controversial French director Jean-Claude Brisseau takes on his first leading role as Michel Deviliers, a retired Maths teacher who offers shelter to Dora (Virginie Legeay), a young girl he finds being beaten on the steps outside his large apartment in The Girl from Nowhere. Brisseau also wrote, directed and produced the movie, which is a noticeably low-budget (around $75,000) effort. Much of the movie takes place in the apartment, but despite some strong supernatural elements, Brisseau never appears to attempt any sense of claustrophobia or menace. In fact, the combining of wordy character study with supernatural ghost story is a decidedly curious one which, while never boring, also never really meshes.
Michel is an ageing, rugged bear of a man who leads a lonely existence (“solitude is a companion” he explains at one point), living in the apartment he inherited from his wife who died 29 years before. The walls are lined with books and DVDs, and he spends his time working alone on a book about the illusions we feed ourselves in order to cope with life. The unexpected arrival of Dora, an enigmatic but intellectually astute young woman, offers Michel the opportunity both to expound on his philosophical theories at length, but also to recruit her as an assistant on his book. Dora becomes a kind of muse to Michel, and the boundaries of their relationships are quickly established. It is one that transcends the physical, which feeds Michel’s growing conviction that Dora is the reincarnation of his long-dead wife.
Shortly after Dora’s arrival mysterious things start happening in the apartment. A couple of these moments are genuinely frightening despite their simplicity — one features a ‘ghost’ which is quite clearly someone with a white sheet over their head, a set-up which could quite easily have been comical if handled wrongly, but which is unexpectedly effective here. Unfortunately, these apparitions are never really satisfactorily explained other than to suggest the plausibility of Michel’s theory that he and his dead wife can be together forever through repeated reincarnations.
The Girl from Nowhere is by turns intriguing and exasperating, but keeps us watching nevertheless. The acting of Brisseau and Legeay lacks almost any trace of emotion, and the fact that they both adopt the same monotone method of delivery suggests a deliberate choice rather than simply two bad actors sharing screen time. Quite why such a decision might have been made, though, is a mystery and adds nothing to the movie.