Finis terrae (Epstein, 1929)

Finis terrae (Jean Epstein, 1929)

Isolation and trauma take center stage in another technical masterpiece from perhaps the most ahead-of-his-time director ever. The film’s story centers around two young men and two old men working on a remote island as algae collectors. After a fight and an accident, one of the young men cuts his finger and it becomes infected. Frankly, I had a hard time becoming emotionally attached to the film. I could understand the anguish of the situation, and the desperation to get to a doctor, but still found myself at a distance. Maybe it was the absence of the heartbreaking closeups of Coeur fidele where so much is said through the expressions on the characters’ faces – I don’t know.

But I can say, regardless, this is still a jaw-dropping technical achievement from Epstein. The editing is again top-notch (including an amazing hallucinatory dream scene from the infected young man’s perspective), and Epstein knows exactly how use his location and all the natural surroundings/light in combination with the placement of his camera and props. This is one of those films easily worth seeing, if for nothing else, the storm of beautiful images.  8.25/10

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