Natural wonder

mariages written and directed by Catherine .


written and directed by Catherine

Martin, produced by Lorraine Dufour, with

Marie-Eve Bertrand, Guylaine Tremblay,

David Boutin and Mirianne

Brûlé. 95 minutes. A Coop

Vidéo de Montréal

production. A Film Tonic release. Opens

Friday (March 8). For venues and times,

see First-Run Movies, page 76. Rating:


catherine martin needs a break. The Quebec filmmaker helmed Mariages, my favourite Canadian film of last year. It was chosen for the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival but had the misfortune to screen the night of September 11. Four people showed up for its premiere, and the film lost the momentum that would have been generated by two sold-out festival shows.It’s finally been picked up for distribution, and should be seen by people who have given up on Canadian movies.

Mariages is set in 19th-century rural Quebec and stars Marie-Eve Bertrand as Yvonne, a free-spirited 20-year-old who resists her pious older sister Hélène’s (Guylaine Tremblay) plan to send her to a convent. Yvonne refuses to leave home, especially since she’s fallen in love with her handsome and wealthy neighbour, Charles (David Boutin).

This is a love story set in the natural world. Martin is infatuated with the woods, streams and fields that serve as Yvonne’s refuge from her constrictive life at home.

The director’s camera fixates on the rocks and trees that Yvonne relates to in an almost dreamlike state.

The film reverberates with stillness, and Bertrand is a particularly contained performer, moving with a solid grace that supports her character’s determination to never relinquish her hold on the man she loves.

When Yvonne is forced indoors, Martin shows us the women’s daily toil and rough-hewn existence. The drudgery of their labour — the ironing, cleaning and washing — is evident, yet Martin is too much of an aesthete to make the work look ugly, only burdensome.

This feminist study of disappointment and desire reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s Cries And Whispers. But unlike Bergman, who prefers to shake up his dreamlike world of women with stark, emotionally painful images, Martin prefers softer visuals it’s almost as if she shot the film through a thin layer of cheesecloth.

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