She Is Conann review: a fever dream about finding beauty in barbarism

Robert E. Howards Conan the Barbarian is so deeply rooted in the golden age of cartoonishly hyper-masculine pulp fantasy that it’s hard to imagine a bold, feminist take on the character. But the new Altered Innocence movie She is Conann, from French writer/director Bertrand Mandico, takes the classic Conan myth to new heights with its stunning images and story about how the human capacity for violence transcends gender.

It takes place in a shape-shifting world where time and space change in a chaotic, dream-like manner. She is Conann tells the story of how a humble young girl rises to become a legendary barbarian after her village is sacked by a band of bloodthirsty marauders. At the age of 15, Conann’s (Claire Duburcq) fate seems all but sealed after her mother is murdered and she is enslaved by Sanja (Julia Riedler), a brutal warrior who prowls the land looking for vulnerable targets to hunt. to go. But with nothing to lose but her own life, Conann chooses to embrace the currency of her world – grotesque barbarism – to save herself. By making that decision, she inadvertently sets in motion events that will determine the course of human history.

In She is Conann‘s most basic plot beats and its depiction of a nightmarish world where sexualized ultra-violence is the norm, you can see flashes of John Milius’ testosterone-infused 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. But instead of simply trying to subvert Howard’s hyper-masculine creation with a story centered around female characters, She is Conann uses one of the most fascinating aspects of the original Conan mythos to stunning effect.

Before Conan was a fully realized person, the barbarian was merely the past life of another character from “People of the Dark” – Howard’s 1932 short story, originally published in Strange stories of mystery and terror about a man who discovers the existence of his previous incarnations. She is Conann takes the idea to the next level by presenting Conann not only as an ordinary, headstrong girl, but also as an older woman (Françoise Brion) who takes stock of the many lives she led on her way to becoming an icon of to become war and destruction.

Fifteen-year-old Conann is just one piece of the puzzle, and her fear makes it clear that she is only at the beginning of her epic. But that fear gives way to something more complex and dangerous when Conann encounters the demon Rainer (Elina Löwensohn) and her own 25-year-old self (Christa Théret), who must literally kill her former counterpart in order to move forward in their shared life. future.

Rather than describing Conann’s life in a traditionally linear manner, She is Conann focuses on these pivotal moments of self-destruction/realization as a way to explore the many different forms that barbarism can take. This is all a long forgotten history for the older Conann – an ethereal woman who wanders the depths of Hell in search of her memories. But it’s all new and terrifying for the film’s younger Conanns, who appear in the film as representations of specific decades in which the titular barbarian has truly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

You can see how through Anna Le Mouël’s production design She is Conann took shape as a film after Mandico spent time cultivating ideas for other Conan-centric projects at the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers. Particularly in the opening act, in which the older Conann finds himself in the underworld for the first time, the film feels like an abstract play meant to evoke the sense of shock that can come from looking back at the arc of one’s to live. The film’s playful quality makes the brutal, beautiful transitions from one Conann to the next easy enough to understand as a metaphor for the barbarity of destroying one version of yourself to become another.

But while She is Conann presents the decades of Conann’s life as vignettes, each so richly textured that it’s hard to imagine any of them being so powerful without cinematographer Nicolas Eveilleau’s ability to highlight their intricate details. Despite the gory depictions of evisceration, She is Conann is often a shockingly beautiful film characterized by an exquisite high-fashion aesthetic that costume designer Elise Cribier-Delande uses brilliantly to explore the many facets of Conann’s identity.

No two Conanns are exactly alike, but they are all women whose desires – for revenge, for understanding, for other people – ultimately drive them to be the best at what barbarians do. If She is Conann As the film nears its conclusion, Conann himself becomes an increasingly fascinating and macabre figure, but it’s the film’s ideas about what barbarism looks like that are most inspired. While it may be difficult to imagine images of murder, cannibalism and war as poetic things of breathtaking beauty, that is the way She is Conann consists in, and it is a feast for the eyes.

She is Conann Also stars Sandra Parfait, Christophe Bier, Karoline Rose Sun, Holly-Rose Clegg, Yuming Hey and Anna Raisson. The film is currently scheduled for a limited number of theatrical screenings in various US cities, but the film is also available for pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray.

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