Si c'était de l'amour: A Mesmerizing Rave Party at the Crossroads of Reality and Fiction

Si c'était de l'amour, a documentary by Austrian filmmaker Patric Chiha, is presented online in the FNC’s section Panorama International until October 31.

Perhaps his most personal work and biggest success to date, Chiha’s fourth long feature film acts as a tribute to his long-time friend, choreographer Gisèle Vienne. Indeed, the film follows a dance troupe on a rehearsal tour for the choreographer’s show Crowd (2017).

As with the show it features, Si c'était de l'amour starts out gently and cryptically. There is very little dialogue at first. Instead, the film focuses on the looks and movements of the dancers as they try to follow the directions of Vienne.

Regardless, the viewers are quickly immersed in the atmosphere of Crowd, a show inspired by rave culture and 90s French techno. From the outset, one can recognize Choice’s “Acid Eiffel”, a landmark track in electronic music, notably co-produced by Laurent Garnier.

As the rehearsal scenes unfold, viewers also get an idea of Vienne’s singular approach. She has claimed that she wanted to recreate video effects through her choreography, such as temporal distortions (especially slow motion), retouched movements and “rhythmic and choreographic vibrations.” The dance troupe applies all of these intentions “in a common breath” (Vienne’s words) and they do it so carefully that viewers may wonder whether it is the film or the dancers that create certain effects.

Then, very gradually, the film moves away from a pure observation of choreographic research to intimate meetings with the individuals that make up the troupe. Stories of love, desire, pain and sexuality merge the dancers’ personal experiences with the intentions of the character they have created with Vienne.

Chiha plays on this ambiguity and assumes it completely. He incites the viewers to think of another reality than the one of the rave dance floor but also to consider how this unique place enables people to lose themselves or embody a character for the time of an evening.

In Si c'était de l'amour, there are no formal interviews or voice-overs. There are only discussions between the dancers, seemingly about their characters at first, and then about themselves. Since everything is very ambiguous, the audience can never tell to what extent these intimate moments are staged, or to what degree the dancers speak of themselves through their characters. This is precisely what makes Chiha’s film so powerful and the beauty of the performance so wonderful.

The filmmaker assumes his entire approach, having admitted that he was not looking for “anything in particular” after having decided to make the film. He was rather looking for “truth” and “poetry”, which he has succeeded. If it were love brings a nostalgia for the golden age of French techno but also to the simple act of dancing, which in today’s context seems like a thing of the past.

To immerse yourself in the world of Chiha and Vienne, subscribe to our Spotify playlist FNC 2020, which features tracks found in the film by Laurent Garnier and Jeff Mills.

Be sure to watch Si c'était de l'amouravailable in the Panorama International bundle until October 31.

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