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'A Ma Soeur!' AKA 'Fat Girl' is a film about holiday romance, sibling rivalry and that first time having sex showing a more sinister side to anything following the same lines from American film makers. This French film shows the real feelings of young teens in certain situations and how younger people are growing up a lot quicker as it begins with drama but moving into the final scenes as a horror movie.
Set in France, Elena and her younger sister Anaïs are on holiday with their mother when they meet an Italian law student Fernando. Elena is the pretty one in the family while Anaïs eats and is the fat one. Fernando is much older than Elena but he wants to prove to her that having sex is a 'demonstration of love'. They keep their relationship a secret while Anaïs has to endure the suffering of hearing everything and continues to eat to comfort herself. Anaïs although only 12 has her own feeling about how her first time should be which is the complete opposite to Elena's.
The film at the start didn't seem exciting at all. A fat girl singing a song, the camera showing this was not a Hollywood movie with vibrant colour but the music provided an upbeat feeling. Elena, played by Roxane Mesquida, and her sister Anaïs played by Anaïs Reboux both have very pale skin adding to their innocence. They are sisters and like all families there is bound to be some rivalry and jealousy between them which is seen but they do share moments together when it is seen that they do care for each other. The story itself is well thought out. Anaïs is the main character but Elena is also at the forefront of the movie. The film is about sex and that first time - Elena wants it to be with someone special and she finds that with Fernando but the film shows how she isn't up for it like most American films are. She is scared and it is much truer to real life. Anaïs on the other hand wants it to be with someone she doesn't love. Even so, the film doesn't focus on the actual intimate scenes but of Anaïs and her feelings about the situation.
The feeling in the film is one of sorrow for Anaïs. One scene in the film shows Elena and Fernando having sex. Anaïs shares the same room with her sister but instead of focusing the camera on the sex scene it pans to Anaïs with tears rolling down her cheeks and crying. At other times she seems very bored while there are noises going on in the background. She watches them but not in a sick way perhaps just interest and jealousy.
The actress Anaïs Reboux is great in her part and looking at her Filmography, this is her first film. With a look of her eyes she can create quite a sinister feeling or that of boredom very easily. She is a rather quiet character but even at the age of 12, she knows what she wants from a man. Her sister treats her like she isn't there but Anaïs still stands by her sister and covers for her. I don't want to ruin the end of the film but even after everything Anaïs says throughout the film, it is still quite shocking.
Roxane Mesquida playing Elena is quite innocent. She is only 15 and just shows that the first time having sex can be quite scary. She doesn't want it to be meaningless even though she has someone convincing her it won't be she still shows doubt. Roxane plays this part brilliantly. She is better looking than Anaïs but both Roxane and Anaïs play loving sisters well shown with certain actions - putting their arms round each other etc. Roxane is a convincing character - she understands her role and is able to put a lot of feeling into it which some actresses can't.
The filming is very well done in the film - steady cameras but doesn't show any of the characters in their best light. They don't wear make up being such a young age although Elena does put on lipstick at one point. When the lighting is dark e.g. in the room at night, both children look white. The film was made in 2001 but it doesn't really seem to me to have been so recently. The clothes they wear seem a little old fashioned and the picture is not of a perfectly lit situation - more of a natural light.
The director based the story on her own life and certain situations she witnessed. This makes it so much more believable because most of the actions have occurred. She already had the picture in her head so it was easy to recreate - plus she was the ugly sister of the family while her sister is an actress.
The language of the film is French but still understandable most of the time for me even without subtitles. Fernando is Italian yet he speaks French very well through the film and even asks Elena to speak slower to he can understand her (which helps me!). Only one point is there any English dialogue when Elena asks Fernando is he wants her to speak English. Subtitles are provided as one of the extras on the film so there is no problem if you don't speak the language. Even just watching the film without sound is possible to understand what is happening.
As a whole I will certainly watch this film again. Although it does focus on a subject that we all go through it is still different to many other films on having sex for the first time. The subtleties of the dialogue giving ideas as to what will happen in the future and the ability to shock are still there even after watching the film more than once. I'm only giving it 3/5 although it is a good film I have seen other films I prefer more than this.
Length: 1 hour 20 minutes
Catherine Breillat returns with yet another brutal yet compelling cinematic offering. A Ma Soeur (literally 'For My Sister' is both intriguing and harrowing as it explores the nature of sisterhood, femininity and what defines the passage from giril into woman. 'A Ma Soeur' is also known under the title of 'Fat Girl' in certain English adverts and concentrates on the relationship between Anais and Elena, two sisters who are totally different, both physically and emotionally. Elena is vampish and attracts the attentions of an Italian student whilst she is on holiday with her parents; a repressed mother and a workaholic father. Given the translation of the title it is little suprise that Anais' weight and compulsion for comfort eating is immediately thrust into the foreground, whilst her sister revels in the attentions of this senior lover. In terms of the scene composition and shooting style there is a definite similarity between this and Patrice Chereau's 'Intimacy', particularly the manner in which Elena manages to sneak her boyfriend into the bedroom of the chalet (symbolically dominated by barred windows,guards, electric gates). Her younger sister is forced to remain in the room whilst Elena's lover tries desperately to seduce her. This scene is actually the longest in the film and Breillat is deliberately hostile to any notions of the 'eroticism' of cinema (similar to 'Intimacy') whilst the voyeurism that is thrust upon the audience does not make comfortable viewing in the slightest. As the film develops, the audience is left wondering as to the conclusion and this is deceptively prosaic as the Italian's mother reveals the state of the affair whilst Elena is ordered to return home in disgrace, having been tainted in such a way. For a director who is notoriously feminist, it seems justifiable to question Breillat's motives until the finale is revealed. Overall
this is an important film and, although not the most comfortable of viewing at times, will satisfy those who choose to stay with it until the end. For fans of independent cinema (especially French) I'd recommend watching 'Intimacy' first and then progressing to this, but definitely set aside a few hours to watch this, impressive and provocative is an understatement!