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September 7, 2014 | by  | in Arts TV |
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Les Revenants [Review]

As you may have inferred from the title, this is a French television show. I’m not sure why, but over the last couple of months I’ve started getting into the international television scene. This came out in 2012. It’s aired on Sundance TV. Also won some sort of International Emmy Award.

Pretty sure there’s an American version of the show now also. Just as there is for Bron/Broen (The Bridge), starring Diane Kruger, which, frankly, took a reasonably subtle piece of narrative and bastardised the shit out of it. Clearly, the holidays haven’t helped me write any more coherently.

To business:

The title means ‘The Returned’. A girl who was dead comes back to life years later and returns to her house in the middle of the evening as if nothing has happened. She’s not a scary zombie – though she does have an identical twin (twins are pretty weird), and the twin having not died is in fact now not identical. Which makes things a bit odd. As things would be, if there were zombies running about.

The episodes sort of revolve around the town in an almost soap-opera fashion. Large cast, large pool of characters who get proper screen-time. In a way, I almost think the creators of this show must have been watching a little Twin Peaks sometime ago. There are some vibes there, although I wouldn’t say Les Revenants has anything near the potency of Twin Peaks.

Anyway, it’s just a reference point. Something which goes towards the moments of surrealism within the show. Given that the thing is actually a drama with certain horror conventions (e.g. zombies), this makes for some surreal times.

Through the multiple characters, storylines start to merge, and by the end of the first season, things have coalesced to the point that you sort of know what’s going on in the town in a wider sense. Except for the pesky town dam. In what seems to me to be following Ancient Greek fashion (though that’s probably purely fanciful), there also seems to be a balance between life and death in the world of the show, wherein a life’s end must coincide with another’s beginning. Sort of thing.

Mogwai do the soundtrack, I believe, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys a bit of the old Scottish post-rock. I know I do.

Really, what the show attempts is a look at mortality and grief. Also ‘Otherness’, which is a made-up word I remember from high-school English, I think. Interestingly, the show does not do anything with notions of consumerism and stuff like that, which until I saw this sort of seemed to be one of those universal genre conventions of zombie stories.

There’s also something happening with the town dam. And I personally found that unsettling.

As the thing is in French, and I don’t really speak much French, it’s possible that I missed some things. Particularly pertaining to the dam. Anyway, the acting seems pretty solid. No idea really what was happening with the dialogue. Who knows how accurate my subtitles were. I assume they were okay. Filmically, I’d say the cinematography is quite nice. They’ve done some interesting things with colours at times as well, and the frames look a bit washed-out much of the time. In a good way. Think about how that fits into the zombie theme… hmm.

Some of the bad things: it’s in French, so if you don’t speak French some patience is probably required. The show also falls down a little on narrative and character. It sets itself up as something that could be a bit special, but lacks that certain je ne sais etc etc.

To surmise, I would say this is sort of an interesting thing to watch if you can be bothered with it being in a different language. If you can’t, stick to Broad City or something else a bit more fun.

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