Presentation of challenges

Alain Bergala is a critic, filmmaker, teacher at la Femis – the French national cinema school, and artistic advisor to Cinéma, cent ans de jeunesse. Using a selection of clips from the history of cinema, taking in work by the Lumiere Brothers all the way to recent releases, he looks at how weather and climate lie at the very heart of cinema itself: How it affects the representation of reality on screen, by way of involuntary and unconscious gestures, or by way of more consciously controlled gestures and actions – the creation and application of artifice, the impressionistic treatment of sensation and emotion, weather events which form part of the core of the drama and conception of the film, or which transform the world and the image in front of our eyes.

Educational documents to download : bibliographie, corpus de films

A question / a sequence

Alain Bergala analyses final scene of Take Shelter, by Jeff Nichols (2011, United States) in which we see the arrival of the cataclysmic weather system, long foretold to both the characters and viewers alike. Rather than filming the tornado and it's spectacular path of destruction, the director chooses to film the family, who anxiously watch for signs, from the almost imperceptibly small, to much larger, signalling the coming catastrophe.

Film Extracts

Showing

White skies, heavy with winter, where passing clouds streak across the sky, tiny little weather events: If films share a specific instance of climate, recorded at the instance of filming, sometimes a director will choose to focus on the weather, illustrating the passage of the seasons, capturing a fleeting moment, or even simply signifying the weather at that moment in time.

 

Breaking the Fiction / Interrupting the world of the film

Passage of the Seasons

Telling

Torrential rain, tornadoes, sudden storms: Weather events, whether natural or artificially created, lie at the very heart of cinematic storytelling, creating an atmosphere that is far from the everyday life, linked to the emotions of the characters, allowing the director to play with elements that make up the moving image itself.

The Elements

A director will, occasionally, go for a totally artistic interpretation of a weather event, ignoring realism, allowing them to access the sacred, magical properties of certain types of weather events adding a poetic, fantastic element to a scene. We see a landscape transform before our eyes, a wind that drives animals wild, rendering characters helpless to its whim, challenging our point of view as an audience.

Interior / Exterior

In the world of cinema, whether the film is, documentary, comic, or tragic, the characters on screen move from interior to exterior spaces, where they are exposed to the beauties and climactic dangers of nature. Filmed through a window, or by way of a door – through which a storm rages, even swiftly constructing a Heath-Robinson style shelter, characters reveal their fragility and their ingenuity, the persistence of their child-like spirit, matched with the precarious nature of human life.