Hidden gem at PÖFF: ‘The Wild Boys’

‘The Wild Boys’ (Les garçons sauvages, 2017) is the first full-length feature film by French director Bertrand Mandico. Previously he has made a lot of short films and animations, the most known of which is probably the 40-minute ‘Boro in the Box’ (2011), the fictive, fantastic portrait of Polish animator-designer-filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk.

Mandico mentions Borowczyk’s first full-length movie, ‘Goto, the Island of Love’ (Goto, l’île d’amour, 1969) as one of the main inspirations behind ‘The Wild Boys’. At the times when Mandico discovered Borowczyk and his films, the Polish film magician’s works were not so easily accessible as nowadays, so it was impossible for Mandico to see ‘Goto, the Island of Love’. So he dreamed up different images while fantasizing about how Borowzcyk’s film might look like based on its title. These fantasies are very similar to what ‘The Wild Boys’ looks like in 2017, especially when we talk about the content of the movie. Some of the visual aspects of ‘The Wild Boys’ are obviously influenced by the later times when Mandico had already seen the adventures that took place on the island of love. But what is Borowczyk’s mysterious film really about? Let’s make a small trip to this fictitious island of Goto.

Goto is an island that is completely cut off from the rest of the world due to an earthquake. On January 12, 1887, on the day of the earthquake, time sort of stopped there. The island is ruled by a barbaric dictator, and although it is already the end of the 1960s, the inhabitants of the island continue to live in the traditions of the 19th century, and visually the world of Goto is highly archaic. A large part of the movie is shot in the ruins of Marie and Pierre Curie’s laboratory, where everything is worn out and aged, old-fashioned rusty tools are used, etc. A considerable amount of time is devoted to flies. There’s a lesson about flies in school and a thorough introduction to the most effective techniques for designing fly traps. Most of the film is black and white, of approximately 800 shots only six are in colour. These are just short flashes on the screen: 1. A bucket that contains the blood of a guillotine-killed criminal 2. Meat for the dictator’s dogs 3. Dictator’s wife’s blue shoes 4. A stationery set 5. Jewellery 6. A slightly longer scene depicting entering the room from a point of view of an anti-hero.

Similar to Borowczyk’s film, most of ‘The Wild Boys’ is shot in black and white, and only a few scenes are in colour, which seem especially vivid and abundant considering the whole. The idea of a fantastic and strange island is also present here. Another similarity is the combination of cruelty and erotic-romantic desires. When Borowczyk took the more erotic path in his later movies and his debut film was relatively restrained in this regard, Mandico goes a little further (though perhaps not the most straightforward way) in his hallucinatory island trip. A gang of young boys commits a brutal sexual crime and they are entrusted to the hands of a mysterious and strict captain who has discovered a rather unique method of treating the most hopeless and depraved boys. To implement this method, boys are sailing to an exotic island, whose lush vegetation is capable of satisfying all human needs and offering unearthly pleasures. But submitting to the pleasures brings along some unexpected metamorphoses …

A hypnagogic journey to the mysterious island can be taken two more times. The film is part of the PÖFF programme Rebels with a Cause and the film screens on November 26 at Coca-Cola Plaza and on December 2 at Apollo Cinema Solaris.