Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Travel Through TV: Les Revenants (The Returned) 1.01: "Camille"

“Because after years of praying for this, I thought you’d know how to welcome her. That’s why I’m disappointed. I may not know what to say or do, but I didn’t pray for this to happen.”

We continue our summer travels by heading for one of my very favorite places, the French Alps. Only this isn’t a gorgeous ski town like Chamonix. It’s a sleepy town where not much happens other than, you know, the dead coming back to life. There have been a couple U.S. versions of this show that I’m aware of (one an “official” U.S. remake and one that wasn’t really a remake but had a very similar concept), but this is the French original real deal. It is incredibly moody and atmospheric, which is what makes it interesting to watch. I studied French from middle school through college (although it’s been about eleven years since I’ve taken a French class and about three since I’ve had to use any French skills), I can generally follow along without too much distraction through a combination of listening and reading the subtitles. The characters aren’t especially deep, but it’s the atmosphere that really keeps me coming back. Plus I want to know why people are returning from the dead and why the big lake in town keeps going down in water level!

The episode opens to a flash back to four years before the “present day” where most of the action will be taking place. A group of school children (tweens and young teenagers) are on a bus for a field trip, perilously hurling down narrow roads through the Alps. Of course, the bus falls off a cliff, and all the children are killed. When I was in the Alps myself about 15 years ago, I definitely feared that would happen to me. The roads are narrow, and it’s a long way down. As we shift into the present day, we can see that the accident has taken a terrible toll on this small town. A therapist named Pierre has convened a support group for parents of the victims. One of the members of this support group is Jérôme, the father of a young red-haired girl named Camille who was one of the victims. Jérôme is pretty surly, criticizing the monument that is about to be unveiled to honor the victims.

Meanwhile, Camille herself (at the exact age she was when she died four years previously), makes her way up the mountain to the village. She slips into her family’s house and heads for the kitchen to get some food. When her mother, Claire, finds her there, she is shocked, but she tries to maintain her composure so that Camille won’t figure out what happened. She does, however, call Jérôme and Pierre to come over as soon as possible. When Jérôme arrives, Camille is taking a bath, and Claire leads Jérôme to the bathroom door. It’s super creepy when he opens the door and Camille yells at him for basically being a creeper. When Pierre arrives, he talks to Camille a little bit, and she seems to be okay. She can’t remember the accident or anything that happened later. She’s starting to suspect that something is seriously wrong, though. It doesn’t help that her parents have moved on from their relationship since her death. Claire seems to be seeing Pierre, and Jérôme has been fooling around with a barmaid named Lucy. Lucy, unfortunately, gets stabbed to death by a returned person we’ll meet in a future episode.

There are several other important characters, beyond Camille and her family, that we meet in this episode. One of those characters is a nurse named Julie. She is a home health aide for Mr. Costa, a widower. Mr. Costa’s late wife also returns, and he thinks he’s going crazy, so he calls Julie for a shot of something. Julie takes the bus across town, delivers the injection, and busses it home. On the bus home, she is joined by a little boy. The boy ends up following her all the way back to her apartment. When she is grilled about the boy by her nosy neighbor, Julie lies and says his name is Victor. Julie is kind of (understandably) creeped out by Victor, and as a single gal, doesn’t want to have to care for him indefinitely, so she threatens to call the police and report that she has found him. Ultimately, though, she can’t bring herself to do that, and she feeds him some rice for dinner. As for Mr. Costa, he still thinks he’s going crazy, and he winds up jumping off the dam at the edge of the lake.

We also meet Simon, a young musician who, when he was killed, was about to get married to a woman named Adèle. When Simon returns, he naturally wants to find his fiancée. First he goes to the apartment he remembers as hers, which happens to be Julie’s apartment now. This of course also intrigues the nosy neighbor. He goes to the Lake Pub, seemingly the only bar in town, where he meets Lena, who happens to be Camille’s twin sister. She knows Adèle because she used to be tutored by her, so she takes Simon to her house. The reunion is not a happy one. Adèle is about to get married to someone else, and I think she believes Simon’s ghost is haunting her because of it. She refuses to open the door and screams for him to leave. The commotion attracts the attention of her young daughter (whose father is Simon, of course).

Camille does start to figure out what’s going on by the end of the episode. Lena comes home from her night at the bar and escorting Simon, and when Camille hears her, she knocks on the wall separating their bedrooms. This is a code the twins shared, and Lena is understandably shocked to hear it. When Lena enters Camille’s room to find out what is going on, both sisters, break down crying, Lena because she can’t believe her sister has returned, and Camille because she can’t believe her sister is now four years older. Both this scene and Simon and Adèle’s reunion are just heartwrenching. At the very end of the episode, we learn a little more about the circumstances of the bus accident. Lena stayed home “sick” from the field trip because she wanted to have her boyfriend (who Camille has a crush on) Frederic over to fool around. They end up having sex, and somehow through super twin powers, Camille can sense it. She causes a huge commotion asking the bus driver to stop, and at the same time, Victor appears in the middle of the road. It’s too much of a distraction all at once for the bus driver, and over the cliff they go.

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