Night of the Flood (1996)


Canada. 1996.


Director/Screenplay – Bernar Hebert, Producer – Michel Oullette, Photography – Serge Ladocoeur, Music – Gaetan Gravel & Serge Laforest, Art Direction – Serge Bureau, Choreography – Ginette Laurin


Genevieve Rochette (The Young Mother), Juliette McClemens (The Hand Speaker), Jacques Godin (The Grandfather), Brendan McCormack-Gannon (Voice of the Boy)


When a father discovers that his daughter is pregnant, he is deeply angry and orders her nailed up inside a crate and set adrift at sea, his way of allowing God to decide her fate. At sea, the spirit of the daughter’s mute dead sister, The Hand Speaker, appears to guide her to land. However, while the daughter has been adrift, a vast flood has destroyed the whole of civilisation. Her sister and others appear to guide her, telling her that she must reunite with the spirits of those she knew in life.

This production from French-speaking Canada offers the unique concept of an End of the World dance film. The film is undeniably interesting. There is a particularly captivating opening that gives a summation of the plot in the voice of a child, describing the end of the civilisation as though it were telling a myth. Here the film gets the narrative voice of myth uncannily right and it is striking to see the 20th Century described through such eyes.

However, the rest of Night of the Flood is never quite as interesting as this. It has moments of exotic imagery – an angel that is a dancer in twelve-inch platform heels, who at one point cradles the heroine in sleeves that are connected to the cuffs of her heels; the character of the Hand Speaker, well performed by Juliette McClemens. The dance moves are interesting to watch, most of these being choreographed to take place in water – although in the end, like the accompanying music, perhaps these are never truly remarkable. Moreover, the film’s plot peters out about halfway through. Narrative drive becomes replaced by one dance scene after another and then the film just suddenly resolves itself. There is a What It All Means epilogue that wants to say something terribly profound about love but is in the end it is all too New Agey and mystical.

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