Allow me to preface this by disclosing my biases: I have a strong love for Canadian cinema and coming-of-age stories, and I truly believe that Canada perfected the coming-of-age story. That being said, Philippe Lesage’s Les Démons is a fitting addition to this obscure canon.
Les Démons does not seem to have anything new to say about coming-of-age and therein lies its genius. It’s a zeitgeist of childhood for those born in the 21st century, and a lot of care has gone into keeping it from turning into another Boyhood.
To begin with, Lesage’s film is basically a series of vignettes that form a simple span of time: a few days in a school, where a child learns about sex, love and the horrors of everyday life. This is all aided by shooting everything from a child’s perspective (the camera is usually quite close to the ground), incorporating childish understandings of the functions of life, and including more children that White God included dogs. These scenes are then juxtaposed with other scenes with a certain epic quality to them; scenes which tell the tale of a pedophile in the midst of these children, shot in garish colour, with expansive wide shots and extensive tracking shots. Les Démons could be simplified as a film created by a child with certain sequences directed by Brian De Palma. If that sounds confusing, allow me to reiterate that I mean this in the best way possible.
The film does have its share of flaws: the first act drags immensely, the ending conforms to its zeitgeist appeal and seems slightly out of place, and the pedophile subplot was seemingly never properly fleshed out. However, these flaws do not ultimately harm Philippe Lesage’s vision. We have reached a point in time where children who never knew the 20th century – or even children born in the post-war on terror world – are coming of age and it is time that their stories are told – demons and all.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam