Where Do the Clouds Go?

Written by Serge Ioan Celebidachi & James Olivier | Review by Prarthana Mitra

When does a boy become a man? is one of the rhetorical and seminal questions posed by Serge Ioan Celebidachi and James Olivier in their chronology-defying bildungsroman Where Do The Clouds Go?, the script of which found its way to me a few weeks ago.

In many ways, especially regarding how the sense of time manifests itself on the protagonist and is perceived by the viewer/reader, it reminded me of Semih Kaplanoğlu’s Yusuf trilogy, also told in reverse. There are shards of magic realism in both; naturalistic details, setting and dialogue are juxtaposed with vast expanses of sand, snow, and profundity. And in the midst of this, talismanic figures guide Daniel Dumitrescu from the uncertainties of life and death, towards meaning.

Underneath the series of unfortunate events, over Dan’s childhood (happy), accident (calamity), recovery (struggle), visions (epiphany), and retrieving a semblance of normal life through love and charity, there is a coming-of-age drama replete with popular culture references (GoPro, turd-shaped pranks, biking on a mountain trail, picnics by the sea) and literary allusions from Moliere and the Bible. Standing central to and alongside Dan in his journey, is the Guide of the Premises who guides him not only through recovery after a terrible road accident but more importantly encourages him to channel wisdom and experience from unfettered innocence.

The seamless transition between past, present and anticipatory, interspersed with dreams, embody the stream of Dan’s coma-induced consciousness. There are dreams in which he is dying and those in which he is saved, and one, in particular, that will change the entire course of his life. The trick to pulling off this back-and-forth movement, and for things to fall in their right place in retrospect, is a self-reflexive exercise for the scriptwriters as well as the protagonist. Poignant and tender moments link memories and reality in a dreamy concoction of words and images conjured from the past and carried over to the future.

Even as interplay and convergence of the past, present and future continue to dominate, Dan’s imaginary conversations with the Guide, memories of time spent with his family and friends serve a sentimental purpose that is compounded by foreknowledge of his harrowing struggle. Along with glimpses of a kindly twenty-something Dan from the future, the audience/reader can forge an instant bond with the various stages of this young man.

It didn’t take me long to realize that a significant power of the film will lie with the actor who plays the role of Daniel Dumitrescu, whose characterization drives the film forward, backward, and wheeling. The script rarely deviates its focus from Dan, who is caught in a twilight state between life and death, youth and hindsight, what-if and what-now.

 

Prarthana-Mitra

Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.