Chosen as this year’s Canada’s Top 10 films of the Year, the Quebecois film LA PETITE FILLE QUI AIMAIT TROP LES ALLUMETTES receives a deserved run this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It is a strangest of all the 10 films and rightly so because the novel (by Gaétan Soucy) it is based on is indeed a strange one. This novel was chosen for inclusion in the French version of Canada Reads, broadcast on Radio-Canada in 2004, where it was championed by actor, film director, screenwriter, and musician Micheline Lanctôt.
The story is about two siblings who live in complete isolation with their father. They are both his “sons”. One day the father kills himself by hanging and his sons decide one of them needs to go to the nearby village to get a coffin. While in the village it is unveiled that the one son is actually a female although she has no idea of that (she has no idea of sexuality and thinks she was castrated when she was very young and that is why she doesn’t have testicles). It also become apparent she has been being used for sex by her brother and eventually becomes pregnant with child.
The film takes certain liberties with the novel and director Lavoie changes a few things to make it more believable. Lavoie lets the audience know from the beginning that one of the siblings is a girl and not a boy. This is a wise decision as the actress playing the part looks more feminine than masculine despite the male clothes and short hair. The father only hangs himself at the 30 minute mark of the film. The evil things that go on are revealed while the father is alive while he has a part to play in them. In the book the girl thinks she was castrated while in the film, she is told by her father that her pee-pee dropped off when she was a child. Her Prince Charming in the film is a land surveyor for the government and not a mine inspector.
The story is a dark one. Twists in the plot show up every 15 minutes or so, and they are not for the better. But the girl is strong willed and able to resist her brother, the villagers and her unknown fears.
The film is even creepier with the existence of the unknown monster kept in the shack outside the main house. Who or what is this creature? Director Lavoie teases the audience, led to believe at first that it would be the siblings’ mother.
The film is a worthy and well plotted adaptation of the novel. Wisely shot in black and white with choral music in the soundtrack to give the film a Gothic look, the film captures both the creepiness and innocence of the girl in the story. A disturbing film undoubtedly due to its theme, but indeed a Top 10 Canadian film of the year!