Name: Lucy Nairn
The penultimate scene shows Victor (dressed in a seductive kimono draped over his baggy women’s bodysuit) playfully placing a pair of flashing mouse ears atop Jules’ head, a moment of mutual understanding that could not have been foreseen. A long shot perfectly framed by the sofa – a familiar symbol of domesticity associated with closeness and family – shows Jules’ response, featuring facts about penguins. He is interested in something and not only that, he wants to share his knowledge with someone, which he clearly is unable to do at home.
The film finishes with Jules walking down the pathway – devoid of any other people - from the apartment, shimmering ears still intact. As he glances over his shoulder towards Victor, he smiles with adoration, reminding us that love can be found in the most improbable places – as long as you have a pair of flashing ears.
Je Vois Des Gens, meaning ‘I See People’, is the graduate film of Niels Putman. It tells the story of the unlikely connection between a young boy, Jules, and a cross-dressing man, Victor.
We meet Jules, a discontent pre-pubescent boy, sat in the window of his high-rise flat with the universal tones of David Attenborough meandering in the background. This immediately injects a soft, almost vulnerable mood to the film, but Jules’ position in the window also suggests a hint of voyeurism, which is reiterated by a camera shot taken from the window down towards the street.
We are then introduced to Victor – in his early 60’s and wearing a long maroon coat and a beret - on an isolated street. As he leaves his handbag unattended, Jules sees an opportunity and grabs it, literally. The location of the street certainly emits a lonely eeriness to the narrative and already invites questions before we are even two minutes in. Where are Jules’ parents? Why are there no other kids out on the street? It is clear that Putman is setting an atmosphere, which can even be tied back to the dulcet tones of Attenborough. Although reassuring, his narration covers nature – which can be a lonely space sometimes.
When Jules discovers a text on Victor’s phone simply stating ‘I love you’, we see a change in him. These three words ignite honesty, causing him to venture to Victor’s apartment, handbag in tow. He enters, finding himself in an Aladdin’s cave of wigs, jewellery and women’s clothes. Despite walking into a stranger’s dark apartment – you would only presume this to be a daunting and unnerving experience – the space never feels perilous. The cabaret-style music tinkling away or the mountains of colourful clutter suggest nothing to be afraid of: it’s not so dissimilar to visiting that eccentric relative that has never married and has just gathered the oddest of paraphernalia to seem more interesting.
As the pair meet properly for the first time, the framing of the shots are primarily close-ups, adding a depth of understanding between the two; this also extenuates their faces from anything else within the shots that may deflect attention. There is definite intrigue between the pair, especially when Jules makes himself comfortable on the sofa and probes Victor about the message he received prior. These are two strangers, separated by generations, but one is seeking something that the other no longer needs: love.
Je Vois Des Gens - Niels Putman (Belgium)
Short Film Competition