On the banks of “La Rivière”, plastic pickers and searchers for missing fish

On the banks of “La Rivière”, plastic pickers and searchers for missing fish


Never, undoubtedly, has filmmaker Dominique Marchais captured as much beauty as in his fourth feature film, La Rivière , filmed in the Gaves of Béarn, these torrential rivers set in idyllic nature. An undulating current, transparent pebbles, a shimmer creating stroboscopic effects on the screen… Perhaps it is a question of softening the pain, while the slow degradation of landscapes, of the climate, of living things, has already been pointed out in previous works − The Time of Grace (2010), The Watershed (2014) −, continues irremediably, even if some alternatives still allow us to project ourselves ( No man is an island , 2017).

The director and former film critic, born in 1972, sublimates the splendor of the emerald rivers while capturing the ongoing disaster, which is the pollution of the waters, the scarcity of trout and salmon, the degradation of the water tables… See the banks du Béarn is both “a joy and a suffering” , one could say, to use a line from Truffaut in La Sirène du Mississippi (1969).

Suffering from disappearance, from insects which no longer form flocks around fishermen, from birds which no longer sing. Dominique Marchais sets out in search of the invisible, and it is in the sub-landscape that this fresh and radical work operates. Here are the plastic pickers, using tweezers to remove micro-waste that is barely perceptible to the naked eye, as it is so entangled in the branches.

“Filming fighters”

In La Rivière , there are hardly any walkers, only beings who act, without having any illusions about the importance that “politics” will give to the work of academics – a young researcher, who has come to inspect the Oulettes glacier in the Pyrenees, expresses his great perplexity.

As analyzed, in their work entitled Dominique Marchais, le temps du regard (Playlist Society, 120 pages, 10 euros), Quentin Mével, general delegate of the Association of Research Cinemas of Ile-de-France, and Stratis Vouyoucas, documentary filmmaker, the director no longer gives voice to “adversaries” in La Rivière, but focuses on his allies, preferring “to film friends, activists, fighters” . Like this farmer, explaining that brown corn consumes much less water than yellow corn. But then, what are we waiting for?

One of the most stunning sequences takes place in a laboratory, where two scientists are preparing to analyze, on a screen, the otolith of a wild salmon (already dead), a mineral concretion located in the inner ear Fish. Composed of successive layers of calcium carbonates, which are deposited throughout the life of the animal, the otolith traps chemical elements resulting, among other things, from the composition of water, and is similar to a logbook. salmon wanderings.

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