Intimate dramas that pick a random slice of life and study it to the point of fatigue are common in French cinema. These films expose the beauty and anguish that are concealed in lives that are lived on a daily basis. In addition, when it comes to the French New Wave, filmmakers like Philippe Garrel are interested in defying the rules of filmmaking, which might result in absolute masterpieces like Regular Lovers or contentious movies like The Salt of Tears.
The Plough (Le Grand Chariot), Garrel’s most recent picture, is sure to be another contentious entry in the director’s filmography. This is due to the fact that the director crafts a narrative that is both too languid and too self-referential to connect with a substantial portion of the audience.
In The Plough, Aurélien Recoing plays the role of an unidentified patriarch who is the head of a puppeteering family. This man wants nothing more than for his three children to follow in his footsteps and become puppeteers themselves. Even if the puppetry industry is not exactly thriving, the Father continues to lead his family through the enchanted realm of storytelling, and he takes great pleasure in the simple pleasures of putting smiles on the faces of children.
Because of their father’s infectious enthusiasm for the art form, the three children have chosen to devote their whole lives to working in the puppetry industry. But, when the grandfather starts to have a sight of the end of his working life, the rest of the family needs to consider the issue of continuity. Now it is up to each of the three siblings to determine for themselves whether or not they choose to carry on the puppeteering family traditions, as well as the manner in which they wish to conduct their company.
As if it weren’t already obvious that Garrel is contemplating his own filmmaking legacy and the challenges of creating independent films, the filmmaker has cast his three real-life children as the characters Louis Garrel, Esther Garrel, and Lena Garrel in The Plough. The three actors will play a significant role in the plot, and each of them will make a separate decision over what to do with the narrative empire that their father spent his whole life constructing.
Recoing’s personal past is another example of how fact and fiction are entangled with one another. The actor’s father was a puppeteer, which played a role in Recoing’s decision to become a performer. But, while it may be intriguing to use reality as the raw material for filmmaking, at times The Plough feels too self-centered to be simply appreciated. This is despite the fact that using reality as the raw material for filmmaking can be engaging.
The Plough’s lack of sophistication is also mirrored in a number of its startling structural decisions, which is unfortunate. For example, there is a distracting narration that pops up every so often to explain an occurrence or talk about the inner world of a specific individual. The repetition of the narration destroys the illusion of absorption and makes the already excruciatingly slow pace of The Plough much more intolerable. It is difficult to fathom the motivation behind Garrel including such a pointless storytelling trick in his most recent movie.
In the spirit of the French New Wave, The Plough does not bother itself with providing its narrative with a satisfactory conclusion. And despite the fact that the point of the movie is to demonstrate that real life does not adhere to the conventions of filmmaking and that it never truly concludes, the sudden break in the story feels like an odd addition to a film that primarily consists of characters moving from one location to another while not much else takes place. As a consequence of this, the emotional stakes are not very high, and there is not much compensation for following the story of the puppeteering family.
The Plough brings to the big screen a special kind of beauty that may be found in the most ordinary of things. Those who are familiar with Garrel’s previous work in the film industry may feel a unique connection to the doubts he has about his own legacy. Your experience with The Plough, on the other hand, will be vastly different depending on how patient you are with drawn-out images and dull narratives. In light of this, there is a significant possibility that The Plough may end up being nothing more than a bore for viewers who anticipate more than a serene meditation that is to niche to adequately resonate with the general audience.