With The Wind (Bettina Oberli, 2018): France, Switzerland

Reviewed by William Geare. Viewed at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

With The Wind (Le vent tourne), director and co-writer Bettina Oberli’s latest drama is deceptively simple in terms of plot. The action primarily centers on Pauline (Mélanie Thierry), a farmer living with her partner in the Jura mountains as the two of them attempt to run a completely self-sufficient farm by producing their own power. Her happily simple and nature-oriented life with is turned upside down when she falls for the charismatic engineer they have hired to help with the construction of a wind turbine. As the love triangle develops, Oberli’s visually striking character study delves deeply into Pauline’s realized resentment for her sheltered life.

With The Wind is at its strongest when leaning into its inherent simplicity. The straightforward plot and tranquil setting allow the characters to exist naturally, with their development explored in more complexity. As far as human relationships are concerned, the minutia is what is center stage here. The film draws upon the structure and devices of classical Greek theatre, as Pauline takes in a young girl from Chernobyl, who assumes the role of the Greek chorus that witnesses the drama unfold.

In an excellent demonstration of restraint, the film’s gorgeous cinematography, superb sound design, and wonderful score never distract from the story at hand, and are all instead carefully servicing the characters’ emotions. A haunting scene towards the end depicting the farm animals of the film showcases the incredible talent of the filmmakers, but in such a way that the stylistic flare only helps us as viewers invest further in Pauline’s agony.

The film is not perfect however, dragging a bit at the beginning of the second act. With a runtime just shy of an hour and a half, at times it did feel quite a bit longer. But Thierry’s outstanding performance keeps you invested even as the story stumbles. Regardless, it is never long until it catches its step again. There is frankly so much to enjoy here that its missteps hardly detract from an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience.


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