A Prince review – raw and touching look at the interconnectedness of all things
Pierre Creton's poetic fifth feature draws together the worlds of sex and nature in a Normandy-set tale about an apprentice gardener
In the filmmaking landscape of France and beyond, Pierre Creton is a unique figure. When he’s not writing and shooting his projects, Creton works as a peasant, which takes arguably much more of his time than filmmaking does. This particularity gives him a unique perspective that plays into his latest film, A Prince, presented in Directors’ Fortnight, and which centres on a few characters living in the French countryside.
Pierre-Joseph is 16 when he finds himself doing an apprenticeship to become a gardener in Mrs. Brown’s centre in Normandy. What ensues in the most effortless way is a series of sexual experiences between Pierre-Joseph and the various men who teach him his job and who are all past 50. Creton’s approach is that of a curious and unphased observer, who at first doesn’t even show these intimate moments on screen. Instead, it’s the narration provided by the different characters that reveals what is happening behind closed doors – a choice that feels respectful rather than prudish and gives them depth, as they reflect on their feelings for each other. Creton’s camera, meanwhile, lets us observe these men in their everyday lives, rarely speaking, often working or simply relaxing.
A certain idea of the realistic aesthetic dominates in today’s cinema, characterised by handheld cameras and close-ups on raw performances. What Creton proposes is a more considered style, reminiscent of photography but which, somewhat paradoxically, brings out the aliveness of the characters he films and the landscapes they occupy. As they work the earth and come to touch each other’s bodies, the men feel part of the environment and these rarely seen cross-generation encounters are made to look natural and, simply, beautiful.
The characters’ various voice-over narrations give the sense of a whole ecosystem in which they evolve, and the fact that they are speaking from a time after the events depicted creates an almost mythological aura. Mrs. Brown, in particular, talks about her adopted son Kutta, who eventually left her to discover his origins and hangs over the film like a mysterious and felt absence. When Pierre-Joseph, Alberto and Adrien eventually live together as a barely secret throuple and decide to make a film about the rare plants they work with, originating from the other side of the world, Creton’s emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things shines through in a touchingly simple way. Across time and space, the same flowers grow, and Kutta himself comes to incarnate this concrete yet poetic fact. The fantastical aspect of the characters’ unbridled sexual pleasure becomes manifest, with sex depicted as a miraculous, uncanny and enticing flourishing of the flesh.
A Prince was screened as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2023. A UK release date is yet to be announced.Where to watch