‘Falcon Lake’, differences between the comic and the film: from the sexual awakening of Bastien Vivès to the female gaze of Charlotte Le Bon

Falcon Lake, the debut of Charlotte LeBon that makes use of the codes of the slasher to reinterpret the graphic novel coming of age from French Bastien Vives titled A sister (Diábolo Editions).

First presented at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2022, Falcon Lake, the directorial debut of actress, model and multidisciplinary artist Charlotte Le Bon may run the risk of going unnoticed in the busy calendar of releases with which the new film year begins in September.

Something that would be a real shame, because the atmospheric, beautiful and disturbing story of the formation of Falcon Lake It’s a little gem which very loosely adapts the original graphic novel.

Vignettes from the graphic novel ‘A Sister’, by Bastien Vivès.
Bastien Vives

Bastien Vivès: an ‘enfant terrible’ of French comics

Bastien Vivès is a controversial author because, in his extensive work, sexuality and the emergence of sexual desire are fundamental elements. A fine line that has caused numerous controversies, especially in those works where the representation of desire and sexuality arises between minors or even between minors and adults. (the crudest would be The mental download either Petit Paul). A provocation fueled by the author himself from his social networks (and for which he would later apologize) which would end up causing the retrospective exhibition that was going to be held on his work at the last Angoulême Festival to be cancelled.

A sister, The title adapted by Charlotte Le Bon, would be integrated into these themes, in a prolific work where there is also satire on different aspects of contemporary society (love, the blogosphere, video games) and even works where Vivès is not found as complete author and that could be included within the tradition of the bande dessinée further mainstream as Last Man. A sister is an almost autobiographical story by Vivès himself and his sexual awakening at the age of 14 on a summer vacation on the beach, arising from his relationship at the family summer house with Hélene, a 16-year-old girl, daughter of a friend of his mother.

'A Sister', the graphic novel by Bastien Vivès.
‘A Sister’, the graphic novel by Bastien Vivès.
Bastien Vives

A sexual awakening that from the look and the lines of Vivès arises from excitement and at the same time strangeness of discovering the female body and the reactions they provoke in her body and mind, contrasting the real and the virtual, the reality of carnality confronted with her previous consumption of pornographic material. But above all, A sister, Thanks to its clean and almost sketched lines of faces, environments and landscapes, it serves as mirror of the reader and his own memories of that transition from childhood to adult life that is adolescence.

To do this, Vivès explicitly represents the progressive and fleeting sexual encounters between the two adolescents, starting from a fine line between what is suggested and what is shown, more a male gaze towards the body or object of desire that the figure of Charlotte represents.

Sara Montpetit in 'Falcon Lake'.
Sara Montpetit in ‘Falcon Lake’.
Flamingo Films

From the male gaze of Vivès to the female gaze of Le Bon

In contrast, Charlotte Le Bon delivers a adaptation as reliable as it is apocryphal, especially when moving her feminine gaze towards this sexual awakening. If in Vivès’ work sexual encounters are represented from a male point of view, that of Antoine (renamed Bastien in a direct nod to the author of the original), in Falcon Lake its director prefers to look away, position oneself as a presence that flies over and analyzes this awakening from a safe distance, paying attention not only to Bastien’s sexualized gaze towards Hélene’s body, but also and above all, towards the discomfort of an overcome Bastien in many moments by the desire of his body and mind.

Scene of the two teenagers in the shadows.
Scene of the two teenagers in the shadows.
Flamingo Films

Something that is enhanced by that limbo in which he lives, uncomfortable with the changes in his body and that no man’s land that disables him from enjoying himself. both from the world of childhood (represented in his brother Tití) like from the world young adults, represented in Hélene and especially in those other adolescents already of age who make up the cast of characters with whom Bastien and Helene relate and with whom Bastien feels an inferiority complex due to his apparent experience in the sexual field.

And from that adolescent world, from the confusion resulting from hormones and physiological changes, is where Charlotte Le Bon modifies and transforms the original graphic novel, surpassing it in all its aspects. In the introduction of a genre that goes hand in hand and serves as a metaphor for sexual awakening and the crisis of adolescence: horror, especially the slasher genre.

'Falcon Lake' arrives in Spain this September.
‘Falcon Lake’ arrives in Spain this September.
Flamingo Films

Between ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘It Follows’

Firstly, the change in the location of a beach in the original is not a coincidence. to a mysterious lake since Le Bon’s way of representing it brings directly to mind the location of one of the classics of the subgenre: Crystal Lake from the saga Friday the 13th.

The shadow of death hangs over the original graphic novel due to Hélene’s mother’s abortion and Antoine/Bastien’s parents’ loss of an unborn sister, in Falcon Lake is the urban legend of Chloé – the film version of Hélene from the comic, transformed from blonde to brunette and with a nod to the original when Bastien confesses to Chloé that he prefers blondes -, the spectral presence of a teenager who drowned in the lake, which flies over their relationship, the spectral atmosphere of the film and its outcome, rewriting and modifying the tone and meaning of Vivès’ original.

A sticky, magical and at times dark atmosphere, which in many moments brings the film closer to two works that also talk about coming of age and which are a source of inspiration for Le Bon’s film. The first of them, blue velvet of David Lynch, both in that gripping atmosphere of the location, close to the sensations that the town of Lumberton transmits, between the beautiful and the perverse, and above all in the mirror simile that occurs between Bastien and the protagonist of Lynch’s film, Jeffrey Beaumont who also discovers, on his return to his childhood town, the unconfessed sexual desires that nest in his soul.

Image of Joseph Engel in 'Falcon Lake'
Image of Joseph Engel in ‘Falcon Lake’
Flamingo Films

The second tape that is seen from the front with Falcon Lake and that could even serve as an inverted mirror would be It Follows, the debut of David Robert Mitchell. A formal and thematic review of The halloween night of Carpenter who foregrounds what in the slasher It is suggested: the crisis of adolescence as a result of sexual awakening.

Charlotte Le Bon turns both views and approaches on their head again, turning into a naturalistic coming of age that could well have been filmed. Eric Rohmer or the Bernardo Bertolucci of Stolen beauty, but imbuing it with a spectral and dreamlike atmosphere and where the excited gaze and the uncontrolled sexual drive of the protagonist of the original comic, here ends up converted, from Le Bon’s feminine gaze, into a suggestive story in the limit between naturalism and dreamism.

A terrifying and uncomfortable encounter with unexpected sexuality, as we can see in the first meeting between Bastien and Chloé, when the latter goes from being the object of heteronormative sexual desire in the original comic to almost a ghostly apparition from the eyes of Bastien and the subjective objective of Le Bon.

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