[Série En thérapie] “Goddess of the Fireflies”: the evils of the tribe

Is the cinema screen a mirror of the soul of the filmmakers or the audience? Probably a bit of both. As part of the summer series In Therapy: Quebec Cinema,Le Devoir” allows eight psychologists to settle into the therapeutic session game with a local film of their choice for the patient. This week, Goddess of fireflies (2020), portrait of a tumultuous – and sometimes steamy – youth in Chicoutimi in the 1990s, inspired by Geneviève Pettersen’s novel and set in pictures by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette.

What do parents know about what their teenagers do when they escape their vigilance? Very little, readers of The goddessfireflies (Le Quartanier, 2014), by Geneviève Pettersen, a novel imbued with the author’s experiences, memories and wounds. Hence the scent of authenticity that emanates from this portrait of an era, a generation and a sometimes ruthless age. Oh, youth, an endless period that we wish for none!

This youthful disc was a resounding success in bookstores. And before she experienced a new life on the big screen, the tribulations of Catherine, both prisoners of parents united by hatred and most often left to themselves, went on stage in 2018 with embodied protagonists of interpreters of the age of the characters. The director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, for her part, has decided to revisit this universe and has found several resonances in it with her own approach. Because since the beginning of his career, his interest in the left behind and the marginalized has never wavered, both in literature (I would like to be deletedHurtubise), in fiction (The ring, Insha’Allah) than in documentary (The little ones fight, The floor of the cowsco-directed by Émile Proulx-Cloutier).

Drug addiction, dysfunctional families, identity problems, first love and first betrayal weave the fabric of this track rich in emotion and dreamlike visions, dominated by the strong presence of Kelly Depeault in the role of Catherine. To find us there, The duty appealed to DD Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist, lecturer and lecturer at UQAM.

How did you feel when you saw The Goddess of Fireflies?

I didn’t see it when it came out, although Geneviève Pettersen’s presence at Everyone is talking about it challenged me; after receiving your invitation, it was the perfect opportunity!

The film captured me and at the same time created a feeling of weight because it is a particularly intense experience of youth. We are caught up in the lives of Catherine and all the other characters as if we were in their shoes. A host of problems intrude: the pain of living; difficulty relating to others; the need to find oneself in a group with which one shares the same values; the problems of the parents — so great that they make children like Catherine live in deep loneliness and build another family. Caught between a very permissive father (Normand D’Amour) and a more controlling mother (Caroline Néron), she is in a way victimized by the many problems her parents go through.

Many viewers who lived their teenage years in the 1990s appreciated the musical references (from Kurt Cobain to the group Les BB) and clothes (choker necklaces and Dr. Martens!), but perhaps also the nostalgia of an era without social networks and smartphones.

We see a kind of freedom there, even greater because young people can take refuge in the forest, far from the eyes of their parents. They form a kind of tribe and we know how important that is at this age.

This freedom in nature is possible because they live in Chicoutimi and not on the Plateau Mont-Royal, but it is also because of the minimal – if not non-existent – ​​involvement of parents who ignore their children’s self-destructive behavior. . One of the film’s great strengths is highlighting this period when change among teenagers is so difficult, a period characterized by shame: being scared, being different or being tormented by changes in one’s body.

There is still a great sense of humiliation attached to those moments of exploring drugs and sexuality. Thanks to the film, we make this universe accessible; it gives this disorder a universal character.

Without revealing certain highlights of the story, it is necessary to emphasize the issue of suicide. Don’t you find this element somewhat elusive, not to say rushed?

I did not feel that I had all the psychological elements to understand this gesture. This character puts himself on the sidelines, not necessarily recognized for what he is… but from there to lead him to suicide? The viewer should be given some additional cues to better decode the discomfort and suffering behind this impulsive action.

In contrast, the scenes describing drug use are very long. Also, I wouldn’t have shortened them! Some spectators may fall away, but I like this feeling of emptiness, this feeling of sharing the experience with them; some parents will definitely pay more attention!

Does cinema have a place in your practice and would The Goddess of Fireflies be helpful to your patients?

I never recommend movies to them, but they do! Recently, an adult patient told me a lot aboutEncanto [de Byron Howard et Jared Bush] : It’s a children’s film, but fascinating in terms of family dynamics. However, Goddess of firefliesprobably not, except perhaps for a parent who has big questions about their teenage child.

Films, I use them mainly in my teaching practice and this one would easily find its place. Catherine’s birthday with her parents is an exceptional sequence which shows how emotionally they are not there for their child. With her gift, the mother wants to receive her daughter’s love when the relationship should be reversed. For a parent, big hugs and “I love you” are fine, but if that is the only thing sought, it comes at the expense of the child’s development.

That being said, as parents we inevitably make mistakes. You need to take the time to recognize them, see their effects and possibly discuss them with the child, which can be restorative. With the parents in the film, I wanted to develop some sympathy for themselves, and the importance of admitting their injuries to limit the impact on their daughter. And it must be said: We can blame dysfunctional parents, but collectively, what are we doing to support them?

Goddess of firefliesby Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, is available on Crave and the Cineplex Store.

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