February 18, 2006
The Lost Domain, 2004
Recalling the whimsical, organic transections between past and present, dream and reality, literature and real-life of Raoul Ruiz's earlier films Memory of Appearances and Time Regained, The Lost Domain is a more somber and pensive, yet still vibrant, impassioned, and intelligently constructed exposition on the process of maturation, the demystification of a childhood hero, and the inevitable loss of innocent wonder and fanciful imagination. As the film begins, a unseen narrator recounts a tale from his Chilean hometown of a ghost ship once moored near the shore whose presence only became an unprovable myth - the stuff of legends - after the villagers ceased to speak of its strange presence on the horizon and recount its fantastic tale. This introductory notion of tale-telling as the figurative lifeblood to existence and identity serves as the Pirandellian framework for Ruiz's tale of a boy from a rural town who is befriended by an abstracted French aviator and chronic storyteller, Antoine (François Cluzet) (and whose life curiously mirrors the wandering hero from Alain-Fournier's classic novel, Le Grand Meaulnes) after he makes an emergency landing in their community during a topographic surveying expedition. Weaving through past and present as the boy, Max becomes a kind of de facto tale-teller at various stages in life: first, as a young flight instructor (Grégoire Colin) training Antoine, now an obsolete pilot unable to navigate the controls of a modern airplane during World War II, then as a middle-aged country gentleman who harbors a young couple after breaking curfew to meet with him and find information on his grandfather, Antoine, who was declared missing in action after conducting a night-time reconnaissance operation during the war. At each juncture, the encounter becomes an understated elegy of time passed - a skeptical young man refusing to acknowledge his youthful gullibility, a middle-aged man who regrets his imposed estrangement from his boyhood hero during their last encounter, an old man acutely aware of his mortality and solitude.