The Five Devils ****
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Swala Emati, Sally Dramé, Moustapha Mbengue
Director: Léa Mysius
Eight-year-old Vicky (Dramé) has a superhuman sense of smell, able to identify any scent and track a person using only her nose. She lives with her faded-athlete mother, Joanne (Exarchopoulos - Blue Is The Warmest Colour, The White Crow), and emotionally distant father (Mbengue - The Crusade). The equilibrium of their home is upended by the return of her Aunt Julia (Emati), who hasn’t seen her brother in a decade and who had left their village in the French Alps in disgrace.
Told through a dreamlike and fragmented narrative, we slowly learn of the true nature of Joanne and Julia’s prior relationship, and so does Vicky, whose powers do not stop just at the olfactory. Julia has long been haunted by the appearance of a little girl at key moments through her life; but now it would appear that her young neice might have the power of time travel too.
This is a seriously tense film, with a dark and brooding sense of dread throughout. With a brilliant soundtrack and heightened score, the sparse script is complimented by bleak grey cinematography, with the characters dwarfed by the behemoth mountains above them. And with Vicky bordering witch-like behaviour, the motifs of the four elements underpin the visuals on screen. Prickly with suspense, this is an unsettling piece, never quite sure whether Vicky is a hero or a monster.
The love triangle at the film’s centre is told through Vicky’s eyes. The time travel is difficult to follow at times, but once we understand the little girl’s mettle, this device really gets the wind in its sails. Mysterious and perched just on the right side of enigma, we are left to delicately assemble the shards of this story ourselves. Not a film for the impatient or passive, it feels like Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer meets Raw, played out viciously beneath rain-heavy clouds.
UK Release: Out now on VOD, released by MUBI.