There are a number of films that vividly showcase the hardships that a person with severe physical deformities has to go through on a daily basis. David Lynch’s 'The Elephant Man' is probably still the closest such an attempt has gotten to cinematic perfection. Caducea offers a rather different scenario, with a more fantasy-like twist. Without offering any major spoilers, Alain grows up alongside Tom – an older brother suffering from an incurable disease. While we don’t find out the exact nature of this disease, it is something that causes physical decay – Tom is always fully covered up, and has his head wrapped in a bandage at all times. Despite this, the two are very close, until the day of separation comes: Tom opts for a solitary existence in the deep woods by the house, whereas Alain pursues a life away from the isolated homestead, and eventually starts a family. One night, he receives a strange phone call, which immediately prompts his return.
'Caducea' weaves an extraordinary tale about life and death, time, hope and regret. It is a bit of a slow burn, with very few dynamic scenes, but this works to its own advantage, as it beautifully contours not only a troubled family portrait, but likewise unearths hidden secrets from the past, forcing its characters to either re-face them, or find them out for the first time. The acting is top-notch from all three main characters, which makes their shared tragedy all the more tangible, and the sorrow of their actions echoes through ‘what if I was in this situation’ scenarios that are passed on to the audience.
Apart from its thoughtful story and complexly drawn characters, 'Caducea' also deeply impressed us with its visuals and artistic presentation. The cinematography is sublime, and the silence and sheer isolation of the forest is vividly painted and juxtaposed with Tom’s suffering. Once again, without providing too many details, we found the costume design outstanding, and perfectly fitted within the context. Despite its otherworldly elements, the film stays more or less grounded in realism, remaining a character drama above all else. It’s not a far cry from the somewhat magical realism that M. Night Shyamalan might have devised in one of his better creations.
All in all, the visual appeal of 'Caducea' is only surpassed by its plot, and the latter’s capability of staying in the minds of the audience for an uncomfortably long time after the credits roll. For all its remarkable achievements, we have awarded Christophe Mavroudis’ film with the ‘Best Film’ distinction of the 5th edition of our festival.