The Thorn In The Heart - Movie Review


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The Thorn In the Heart

After having recently been able to attend a screening of The Thorn In the Heart with the director Michel Gondry in presence, I think I was fully able to grasp what exactly drew me to the film in the first place. It wasn’t so much the story or presentation as much as the man himself who pieces together his work in the same fashion that a magician pieces together a magic act. What you see on screen is only a slight fraction of what happens under the table.

The Thorn In the Heart is a different kind of film however. It is a documentary focused upon Michel Gondry’s aunt who grew up and taught in the rural areas of France while raising her son and daughter, a task which she eventually had to take on by herself after the death of her husband. Like anyone, there are some things that she probably could have handled better, but all things considered, she always did the best she could. This is something that we can certainly connect to, but does it justify an entire film in and of itself? It’s debatable.

There’s nothing objectionable about the Thorn In the Heart. Overall, it is a very pleasant film. A pleasant film, however, does run the risk of lacking chemistry and resonance. Despite Gondry’s taste in music, which heavily draws upon strong emotional themes, the film lacks any strong emotional ties of its own. Very little about the film makes the viewer feel particularly torn or enraptured.

The audience isn’t so much left with a story, as much as someone else’s personal home movie. The effect is similar to watching a video of a stranger’s wedding or birthday party. I once encountered the work of one artist who would buy old VHS tapes from anonymous garage sales and present them on screen as works of art themselves. The idea was that these tapes were documentation of another persons precious memories that were then discarded for one reason or another. Although they were often uninteresting, we were left wondering what happened to these people. I’m not sure what that has to do with this particular production myself, but I can say that there is a distinct possibility the viewer will be left interested, but not engaged with whatever happens on screen.

Gondry’s film is a wonderfully assembled home movie, shot on fabulous Super 8 cameras and occasionally featuring a tidbit of inventive stop-motion animation. Not to mention, he makes great use of a train set to string together each segment. It’s admirable to see a film that isn’t overwhelmed by its director and is fully dedicated to the cause of capturing very real people. It has to be respected. That said, don’t expect the same kind of magic Gondry has performed before. This is a personal work that has been chosen to be shared with the world. I love that kind of attitude, but it doesn’t mean I have to love the film. All this to say, the Thorn In the Heart is a good film, I don’t really expect to see it again.

As for being in the same room with Gondry, I think he smiled at my wife. Awesome.

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