Not understanding is the purpose. A minimum of that’s what author/director Simon Lavoie says in his director’s notes for Nulle hint [No Trace]. He’s not seeking to create a movie with narrative propulsion or mainstream attraction inside an trade he’s actively looking for to insurgent towards. He as a substitute desires to return to the artwork by participating audiences with kind, sensory enter, and concepts. Lavoie’s objective is to subsequently embrace an unstated “pact” with viewers that permits for a good thing about the doubt the place understanding and intent are involved. What we take from the movie is thus extra about what we’re bringing to the expertise than what he has offered for it. Setting and time are rendered inconsequential as that means takes centerstage. Its function and success are ours to present.
There’s magnificence and frustration on this fact relying on the way you enter this pact. These searching for a linear story and context will likely be sorely upset whereas these prepared to let themselves be absorbed by its world received’t. As a result of whereas Lavoie eschews exposition for temper, we however do turn into conversant in the surroundings drawn. It’s militaristically oppressive with border check-stops and common concern. It’s quietly violent with everybody clinging to a handgun due to distrust proving a common trait in direction of survival. And whether or not you’re of N’s (Monique Gosselin) ilk or Awa’s (Nathalie Doummar), you may even really feel a tug of hope beneath the palpable air of despair permeating each body. The place the previous has hardened herself to the current, the latter nonetheless believes in a future.
The distinction finally lies with religion. N is an atheist with good purpose contemplating the arduous life she’s carved out of the ruthless darkness as a smuggler throughout territorial boundaries. Awa is a religious Muslim praying every day for Allah’s benevolence to information her and her baby to the protected arms of her husband. N’s pragmatism has absolutely stored breath in her lungs greater than as soon as whereas the naivete born from Awa’s blind allegiance to discovering grace inside nightmare has absolutely left her on avoidable pathways in direction of hazard. That they arrive collectively right here can subsequently be dismissed because the product of comfort on behalf of Lavoie or future on behalf of the characters. Both means you select, nevertheless, that which one lady possesses may simply save the opposite.
Lavoie’s spare surroundings is primed to let this be true. With little dialogue and a relentless shifting of facet ratios from full body to widescreen (typically with subsequent cuts no matter whether or not the scene has modified), we’re aware about the stark actuality that these ladies face with harrowing photographs of charred and bloated corpses centered inside. How will N defend Awa from these ugly photographs as soon as they cross paths once more days after the previous helped get the latter out of what we will solely assume was a extra illiberal state than the subsequent? How will Awa have the ability to belief N when she’s the one individual in addition to her husband that knew the place she’d gone? Can N’s instincts preserve them alive? Will Awa’s religion open her coronary heart?
Past even that, nevertheless, is what their beliefs imply within the grand scheme of issues. No Hint inevitably takes a non secular flip by its finish whereby what we’ve seen isn’t essentially what is. You may reconcile this reality with the methods by which atheists and the trustworthy differ with reference to demise. The place one sees this life as however a check to endure earlier than discovering peace in paradise, the opposite seems to be upon what they’ve now as all they’re ever going to get. N is thus determined to maintain going despite the fact that her pursuit to dwell is devoid of any alternative for happiness. Awa is conversely assured that the horrors she skilled are however one a part of a journey her household will quickly set proper.
Does N’s practicality trump Awa’s delusions? It does in case you’re N. Awa doesn’t consider what she is aware of is coming is a delusion. Her religion renders it as a certainty till confirmed in any other case. And even when these truths are confirmed flawed superficially, that doesn’t imply they’re endgame received’t nonetheless be confirmed right alongside some completely different street. As a result of what’s demise to her however a doorway in direction of a brand new life? The place N sees these corpses as a definitive ending, Awa may simply interpret them as a brand new starting as a substitute. One can by no means be away from these they love if demise isn’t held as one thing to concern. Whereas Awa fears the ache she’s been compelled to endure by the hands of animals, she doesn’t concern the likelihood that they’ll kill her.
In order issues get direr due to the altering seasons and dwindling meals provide (the place it comes from with coded numbers is another thriller we’ll by no means know as a result of we don’t want to understand it), this chasm between them grows. N prepares for flight whereas Awa prepares to be saved. Lavoie has manufactured a battle pitting pessimism towards optimism in a means that will really negate all the things he’s put on-screen. By exhibiting us what pessimism calls for through N’s vantage level (glad endings are for suckers), the viewers all of a sudden turns into that which is made blind. We all know what she sees solely as a result of that’s what Lavoie is exhibiting us. He’s utilizing mainstream cinema’s conditioning to steer us down a path that’s actually simply as flimsy as the opposite.
As a result of what if N isn’t the story’s focus? What if Awa is? What if the journey on-screen is one the place the latter’s sufferer of heinous abuse is meant to avoid wasting the previous even though she doesn’t suppose she must be saved? The end result blurs traces so the bodily and non secular can co-exist. Fairly than preserve N vigilant, that which she sees may very well be steering her right into a entice. And fairly than go away Awa weak to assault, that which she believes (regardless of all indicators on the contrary) might show their probability to flee. Loss of life is thus an phantasm—nothing greater than an occasion imbued by no matter significance you bestow upon it. You both concern its finality or embrace the surprise in its potential.
No Hint is taking part in as a part of the 2021 Slamdance Movie Competition.