The thin line between humans and animals is blurred even further in writer/director Thomas Cailley’s “The Animal Kingdom.”
The surreal thriller, which is co-written by Pauline Munier, imagines a world where mutations in human genetics cause people to transform into hybrid creatures. When François’ (Romain Duris) wife becomes affected by this mysterious condition and disappears into a nearby forest, he enlists the help of a local police officer (Adèle Exarchopoulos) to find her. François’ son Emile (Paul Kircher) joins the quest to reunite the family.
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“The Animal Kingdom” premiered as the opening night selection of the 2023 Cannes Un Certain Regard. It went on to be nominated for 12 César Awards and will next screen as the opening night selection of Rendezvous with French Cinema in New York on February 29.
Writer/director Cailley said in a press statement that “The Animal Kingdom” opens a new door into post-apocalyptic narratives. “The idea of human-animal mutation allows us to approach this question from a concrete, physical angle, in the bodies of the characters themselves,” Cailley said. “Not through the prism of inevitable collapse or another post-apocalyptic story but through the portrayal of a vital, violent and creative impulse.”
Cailley cited Paul Verhoeven’s “Starships Troopers” and Hayao Miyazaki’s films as influences on the multilayered tones of “The Animal Kingdom.”
“I am very keen on the eruption of fantasy into our everyday lives,” Cailley said. “This friction between reality and fiction is a precious source of empathy, of shifts, of disturbances, of comedy.”
The comedic crux is Exarchopoulos’ character, with Cailley praising the actress for bringing “cold humor and poise that is both undeniable and funny” to the role.
Exarchopoulos recently starred in “Passages,” which she told Vogue she believed “reinvented” intimacy onscreen, much like how Cailley claims “The Animal Kingdom” reinvents the post-apocalypse film genre.
“I think sexual intimacy coordinators are important because it’s hard to [discuss] in front of 10 people, ‘Are you agreeing to [take off] your bra?'” Exarchopoulos said. “I think you are even more free when there are boundaries and limits — otherwise, even for the male, he doesn’t know what he should do, should not do. Everyone gets scared. You can find more creativity when you know the territory than when you explore with clumsiness and with no coordinator. It’s a good thing, to be honest — I don’t think it will block inspiration.”
“The Animal Kingdom” premieres March 15 in theaters and on demand from Magnet Releasing. Check out the trailer below.
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