In her grandson’s eyes, Manette, a beautiful woman with long white hair, seems like a fairy tale princess. Secluded deep in the woods, she lives in harmony with “things” (rather than “nature”, as she says), listening to the wind in the lime trees and the opera arias she had once sung. Baptiste asks her to talk about her life, her loves, her sorrows, at all hours of day and night, in the living room or on the terrace overlooking a meadow. She recalls disappointments, desire and its dissolution, fanciful dreams. Baptiste watches her embroidering, listens to her reading old diaries, reads a tale that she had written. He contorts the perspective to welcome this stern, majestic woman into his frames and cram more things next to her. The low-definition DV photography swathes domestic objects in a floating mist, a baroque setting that at times seems like a casket in which Manette is comfortably immersed, at times like a trap hemming her in. The film imposes a flowing yet jerky rhythm: long stretches of story and music unfold before being interrupted by brutal cuts. These ambiguities reflect the character herself, who has developed the gift of denying death in order to dodge pain, at the risk of appearing monstrous in her own eyes. At a very young age, Manette had already clearly understood herself: “I don’t want a husband – he would let me down –, or a lover – he would cheat on me –, I want a stream and a meadow.” Her current life seems to be the fulfilment of a prophecy, and her house, a microcosm of mythological dimensions.
Baptiste Pinteaux is a publisher and independent scholar. He runs the publishing house Daisy and the art magazine Octopus notes. Nachtlied (2022) is his first film. He collaborated on the screenplay of Des jeunes filles disparaissent (Clément Pinteaux, 2018) and played in Liberté (Albert Serra, 2019).