“A family”, the shattering “home movie” by Christine Angot at the sources of her incest

We knew her as a novelist (around twenty books published since 1990), screenwriter ( Un beau soleil interior , by Claire Denis, in 2017), adapted for the cinema ( Un amour impossible , by Catherine Corsini, 2018) and in the theater ( Le Voyage dans l’Est , at the Théâtre national de Strasbourg, by Stanislas Nordey, 2023), here she is now a director. For all intents and purposes, in the case of a personality as media and controversial as Christine Angot, let us make this introductory statement useful for understanding the film. Born Christine Schwartz, in Châteauroux in 1959, to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father who abandoned her and did not recognize his daughter before the age of 13. It was on this date that Pierre Angot regularly began raping the teenager.

Returning to Strasbourg, the city of rape, as part of a promotional trip, Christine Angot takes on board Caroline Champetier – a magnificent cinematographer who crosses cinematic modernity – whose task here is complicated by being the witness and support of the novelist launched, through cinema this time, into a new attempt to reformulate the misfortune that partially destroyed her. The affair, according to the author, would begin inadvertently in front of the door of her father’s wife, who no longer wants to receive her since the question of her incest became a public affair. She doesn’t believe that the old woman can open the door, she hesitates to ring the bell to the point of asking Champetier to ring the bell for her, then decides to do it herself.

This ring of the bell launches a strident, bristling, brawling documentary, with knife-edged dialogue, in which Christine Angot goes around to her loved ones to ask them the question – to say the least delicate – of the view they each have on the incest that ‘she underwent. Each sequence will thus carry its own tone. The one with her mother-in-law is epic. Foot in the door, imposition of the camera on a character who doesn’t want it, frenzied accusation in the living room. Documentary ethics, as they are when they are carried out in the name of great tragedies, are pulverized here. This woman, intelligent and understanding, will never say the reason why she closed the door to her daughter-in-law. And for good reason: defending the image of a respected husband and father with disregard for fairness, even by doubling the punishment of the child sacrificed, cannot be admitted. Yet these are her reasons as a woman and mother.

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