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June 15, 2015
A slow burn of a narrative rooted in the midst of a caricatured version of reality, Paper Souls (Les âmes de papier, 2013) follows the delicate story of a series of quirky individuals with lost souls, searching for the something their late loves left behind.
Paul (Stéphane Guillon), an obituary writer gets an unexpected knock at his door from the widowed Emma (Julie Gayet). In search of putting her late husband to rest, and in an attempt to gain closure for her young son Adam (Jules Rotenberg), Emma hires Paul to write a final goodbye for her lost love.
What follows is the unfurling of an unexpected relationship between Paul, Emma and Adam, as they get to learn about one another and their individual ways of dealing with unusual situations.
In light of an unlikely, unrealistic twist in the narrative, forcing it into the realms of fiction, the acting remains strong and believable, truly enticing the audience into querying the outcome for all those involved.
Music within the film is aptly playful, almost fairground-esque, uplifting a black comedy into a light-hearted portrayal of relationship and love. Use of trombone is particularly notable, a unique, prominent sound in the midst of a uniquely intriguing story.
Focusing on characterisation and minutiae, this French film demands the audience’s attention throughout (no less due to the subtitles). Themes evident throughout Paper Souls include love, death, companionship and enchantment, and would appeal to those who seek fiction, fantasy, romanticism and relationship from an appetising narrative.
Prominent and powerful within the film are the characterisations of an array of seemingly fictional, kooky characters including Paul’s neighbours: Victor (Pierre Richard) and Hortense (Claudine Baschet).
Despite their age gap, Victor and Paul share a loving, brotherly relationship. In disregard to his senior citizen facade Victor is puppy-like in mannerism, gesture and movement. Subtle touches which aid his individual characterisation, including dawning two sets of reading glasses and the interior of his absurdly messy apartment, wrap Victor up as an excitable, eccentric character who upholds intrigue and adoration throughout the film.
Paul’s other neighbour, Hortense, similarly of the older generation, also sustains comedic value in a depiction of total besottment for her late pet for which Paul writes obituarys before recording onto cassette and gifting to Hortense. A particularly notable, endearing scene features Hortense sitting down to her evening meal, headphones-on, charging a glass across the table to her now stuffed pet, sitting opposite her.
Small touches, as evident here, are prominent yet subtle throughout the narrative, aiding the audience’s emotional response towards the film’s conclusion.
Despite its offset presenting a black comedy rooted in realism, Paper Souls in fact reveals itself to be an enchanted fictional narrative illustrated by caricatured individuals, within a filmic setting of romanticised Parisian charm.
What’s unique about the film is its ability to leave the audience appeased and content, as opposed to scornful and restless. It effortlessly and without excess champions the ideas of charm and foible, and plays on these strengths to successfully win over its audience.
Paper Souls is available on DVD from June 15th