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Columbarium

World Premiere
  • Quebec
  • 2012
  • 86 mins
  • HD
  • French
  • English (subtitles)
Hosted by Director / Writer / Producer Steve Kerr and Actors David Boutin, Maxime Dumontier, Pierre Collin and Gilbert Comtois

Harvard grad Mathieu (David Boutin) is making money hand over fist. And this seems to cause him no small degree of anxiety, given all the pills he must swallow to sleep or stay calm. An inveterate gambler, he works in finances for a large company and has lived for several years with his wife and daughter in the U.S. His freewheeling younger brother Simon (Maxime Dumontier) would love to live that American dream too. It’s L.A., and an acting career, that Simon dreams of pursuing with his girlfriend. Mathieu picks Simon up en route to the deep woods around La Tuque, where sits the luxurious cottage of the father, recently deceased in a mysterious accident. Upon arrival, the executor of the will and an old friend of their dad’s informs them of his last wishes — to get their inheritance, they must spend seven days here and build a columbarium to house the urn of their father’s ashes. It’s a week that will seem like forever for the brothers as the quietly grieve and exorcise their demons (to the extent of near-madness), dragging skeletons from closets and dredging up old memories. Paranoia sets in and tension rises as time trickles away, until at last the light shines in on our dear siblings.

With a soundtrack handily blending classical music (Verdi, Bach, Satie) and rock ’n’ roll old (Les Jaguars) and new (Jean Leloup), the debut feature from Steve Kerr is a nice surprise, showing savvy in both its appearance and in the atmosphere it creates. Graced by impeccable direction of photography, the psychological thriller is magnificently shot with style to spare (i.e. a Dexter-flavoured opening with Aronofsky-style close-ups, the nightmarish dreams and other hallucinations…). With wound-up, energized editing, the isolated rural setting of this intense close-quarter drama recalls the Quebec film JALOUX, though it remains its distinctly its own beast. The scriptwriter as well, Kerr is clearly inspired by his academic and professional background (a graduate of HEC and member of Chartered Accountants of Canada) in crafting his complex and nuanced central character, who could easily be a distant cousin of Jack from the timeless THE SHINING, while his tale tinged with the fantastic at times brings to mind the sombre worlds of author Patrick Senecal. A singular and nuanced work.

— Kristof G.

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