Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh
Rating: 4 out of 5 water lilies. It took me a while to invest in the story that Mood Indigo is trying to tell, because for a short while, there wasn’t much of a story to be gleaned– with no immediate context to better understand its eccentricities, and seemingly little substance beneath all the beautifully strange fluff, we are initially left with nothing more than Gondry’s usual visual splendor. However, once that characteristically hypnotic, hallucinogenic quality finally became emotionally grounded in something resembling a narrative, I grew to really love this film, even if I am still trying to fully understand and unravel it– whimsical and surreal, this is a love story for the absurdist in all of us, and leaves much open to interpretation, for better and for worse.
Mood Indigo begins with (and continues to be punctuated by) people writing the tale we’re about to see, operating a consistently-moving conveyor belt of typewriters. The tale itself takes place in an ultra quirky version of Paris, where Gondry’s special brand of fantasy can be found everywhere. Colin (Duris) is a comfortably wealthy, lazy bachelor who soon wishes to fall in love like his cohorts Chick (Elmaleh) and wonder-chef Nicolas (Sy) have. Other than that, there isn’t much of a central conflict until perhaps later; this early portion of the film is solely consumed by its wondrously distorted, playful, odd imagery– so consumed in fact that it almost seems too indulgent and downright excessive, lacking purpose.
But, I soon found myself charmed by the film anyway, especially because Gondry’s stylistic flair eventually seems be in service of some greater messages or themes. Colin meets Chloe (Tautou) at a party and they embark on a beautiful but ultimately doomed romance– Chloe contracts a kind of cancer, or as it translates to in this film: a water lily growing inside her lung, the only treatment for which is to be surrounded by other flowers. Meanwhile, Colin’s funds are steadily depleting and the once cheery setting develops time-lapsed cobwebs and takes on an even more distorted shape, as well as an overall darker, bleaker tone and color palate to match. The film even ends in black and white, and the gradual transition proves really quite moving.
The more we see and hear of the tale’s mystery writers– including a jarring scene in which they have to pull Colin himself away from the typewriters as he tries futilely to re-write what seems to be his unfortunate fate– the more the film seems to be about the very idea of predestination. The film being based on a novel in the first place, authors and authorship seem to be major motifs as well, and the idea that these authors are actually writing our stories instead of us becomes more and more apparent– and a whole lot more chilling and thought-provoking– as the film progresses.
While the film does end on a far more depressing note than it begins, the shift is nevertheless effective– we are no longer necessarily questioning the film’s zany accents but rather looking deeper, not merely accepting the film’s surrealism at face value then but finally understanding it as a mode of expressing somewhat greater concerns of destiny and control, fantasy and reality.