Dans la Brume (Just a Breath Away)

Fantasia Fest Journal: ‘Dans la brume’ (‘Just a Breath Away’)

'Dans la brume'

Movie Rating:


When the apocalypse finally comes to Earth, there’s no way of knowing what form it will take. Might it be a plague? Or a meteor, like the one that took the dinosaurs? Cinema has been exploring the various ways the End of Days will destroy us, and rare cinematic gems like ‘Dans la brume’ give this destruction some gravity and beauty.

A co-production between Canada and France, ‘Dans la brume’ takes place in Paris. A sudden earthquake quickly goes from bad to worse as a mysterious gas blankets the city just after the quake. It’s unclear how far this gas reaches, but it is clear that the gas is bad news. It kills people nearly instantly and brings Paris to a complete halt.

Mathieu (Romain Duris) lives just across the street from his daughter and wife (Olga Kurylenko). As soon as the earthquake and gas expansion hit, he sprints across to their apartment to make sure they’re safe. The gas is opaque and heavy, so heading up to the penthouse of the building will be their path to safety. But there’s a catch.

Their daughter, Sarah (Fantine Harduin), has a rare condition which necessitates her living inside a completely controlled environment. It’s slightly more sophisticated than ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ but along those same lines. Because of this, Sarah is safe on the second floor, but she cannot be easily evacuated to a safer location.

The majority of the film is then spent on survival. Not only do the characters need food and supplies, Sarah’s health adds another set of challenges. Her pod (for lack of a better term) keeps the gas at bay, but also requires electricity and batteries, and her parents take an incredible risk every time they visit her within the cloud of poisonous gas.

Visually, ‘Dans la brume’ constructs the terror of this ever-present threat with beauty and simplicity. The heavy gas looks like a white river has engulfed Paris, and it runs through the streets without discrimination. As our characters stand on balconies and rooftops, the city somehow looks peaceful. And it is, sadly, at peace.

‘Dans la brume’ also uses unique camera angles to heighten the sense of unease and disorientation. Paris is no longer as we knew it, and overhead shots of the city’s now-lifeless streets make it look more alien than before. Though these attempts to show off different perspectives of the city are a little pretentious, especially when they interrupt the flow of the plot, the unnerving effect they have is needed to distance the reality of the film from our own world.

Though some of the emotions get a little hokey and the ending predictable, ‘Dans la brume’ is an excellent little film about the death of civilization as we know it.

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