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In terms of directors currently working today, one cannot argue against the sole French film-maker, Bertrand Bonello who assembles both touch of real world affairs and surrealist tendency when dealing with current issues. In other words, a paradoxical treat for the senses can best describe his movie collection that would look like something you must have seen before but most often become obscure because he likes to use dream-like images and feels instead of logic which sometimes make it hard to comprehend or read them through… That is not a bad thing.

Certainly, Coma is an intriguing title for North American theaters if we consider two factors about where it arrived from. First off, the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2022 before being released in France’s cinemas in November that year. This is essential since it was made in direct response to pandemic emotional trauma height during COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020/2021, which people were more aware of by 2022.

Anyway, it’s different now in 2024 (especially North America), COVID-19 does not receive as much general coverage, conversation nor is considered such a threat anymore (though it continues spreading and changing). Therefore, there arises an issue of its relevance: are today’s audience who are mostly over this pandemic still interested in following a girl going through her hardest life period?

Coma feels like a modern period piece though. Thus set in a past from which we may have distanced ourselves societally but remain emotionally close to; therefore Bonello’s work is very much an affecting object: a clearly situated text that has got an eternal exposed heart pulsating with meaning waiting analysis and self-reflection.

Certainly, Coma shares many key filmmaking techniques we saw used by movies such as “COVID” or “Pandemic” cinema — single-location stories; screenlife motifs; actors alone on-screen etc – however Bonello avoids making them sound like simple solutions to on-set COVID-19 protocols.

Especially noticeable are the nightmare sections where we would go from teenager’s perspective, slowly passing through a scary forest and meeting different recognizable but also unfamiliar persons. These recurrent scenes are reminiscent of Blair Witch Project, filled with perplexity and fear. It doesn’t work like this—it is all just a dream certainly—which in fact makes everything worse for an awake audience. The floor is less firm, we cannot determine our walk or glance and it can be anything.

Bonello stresses this “awake dream” by combining live-action with animation. In the child’s room, toy manikins (discontinuous motion pictures featuring French actors including Gaspard Ulliel or Louis Garrel) participate in a melodramatic subplot which appears to have been taken from an episode of a TV soap opera. In another sequence of 2D-animation, the teen interviews a serial killer she had seen on TV earlier. What is more these animated scenes take us back immediately to the reality of what we see on stage, thus giving Coma its feverish feel.

Secondly, worth mentioning is that Bonello’s other film titled The Beast (which was released in cinemas last month) came out after Coma although production of the latter finished before that of the former began. This matters because while Coma happens in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, The Beast has its heart beating at our present “post-pandemic” world thereby revealing questions about life love and longing against the background of increasingly developing science.

In our review you will see how much grief and mourning there are in The Beast. Léa Seydoux plays its protagonist who grapples most deeply with whether one could be a “better” human being without emotions anymore, hence she goes for an operation to remove her feelings altogether.

While at isolation possibly all this teenager has may be her own emotions as companionship? Furthermore Bonello claims that deep inside fright and apprehension, we are going to be alright. The film itself is dedicated to his then teenage daughter who would have turned into an adult at one of the darkest periods in global history. This, of course, has a lot to do with Bonello being hopeful about Coma and landing somewhere, best case scenario as a bitter man or worst case scenario as a nihilist guy as he ends up with The Beast; obviously this is a dark time. Nevertheless, it seems lucky that following The Beast we got Coma here in North America. If there is anything we need reminding of now it’s that we will be okay.

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