“Story creates connection.”
Having given up on Midwinter of the Spirit, I turned to 4OD for my supernatural-drama fix. The Returned (Les Revenants) is a French-language drama set in a small community in the mountains. Four years ago, a bus full of schoolchildren went over a cliff, and the town is still recovering from its trauma. But those who were killed are coming back, with no memory of what happened.
My first thought when I finished this first episode was how strange a thing this; how muted and atmospheric and yet how ambiguous and odd. There’s no Hollywood sensationalism to the return of 15-year-old Camille and the young man Simon; only a kind of shocked realism as those who once knew them have to come to terms with their return. It is an episode that focuses on emotional realities far more than on the workings of mystery; the amnesia of the returned dead means that they are nowhere near as affected as the townsfolk who thought they were lost. What happens when our most fundamental knowledge about how the world works is challenged? Where do we take refuge – in madness, in faith, in practicalities? Who copes best? In Lacanian terms, the show puts stress on the Symbolic, the imaginary order humans create to make the world livable, allowing the Real, the unencompassable and ineffable forces of death and lust, to overtake and interrupt it, to collapse it. And humans, of course, only rebuild the Symbolic around that collapse, trying to reconstitute it – and what will that rebuilding do to this enclosed, claustrophobic society?
It’s obviously hard to say very much about one episode; this feels like a show whose meaning will unfold over time. But, certainly, as a beginning this is promising. I’ll be watching the next one at least – if only to get my rusty French back into some kind of shape.