An Oscar for the adaptation of his play “Le Père”, another for the main actor of his film Anthony Hopkins: the French writer-director, just in his forties, has taken a new step in his brilliant career. A look back at his prolific, attractive but uneven work. And first impressions, very positive, on the film

This crowns a young career: at 41, Florian Zeller, author of twelve successful plays and five novels, has just been awarded an Oscar for the film adaptation of his dramatic comedy “The Father”. Anthony Hopkins, the main actor, is crowned best actor. A pledge of supreme recognition for this writer acclaimed by the public, praised by international critics – he is one of the most performed French authors in the world – a little less by French critics.

In the romantic field, Florian Zeller has not really marked the spirits since “The Fascination of the worst”, Interallié Prize in 2004. It is in the dramatic field that he is successful, in particular with his family tetralogy: “The Mother “(2010),” The Father “(2012),” Before Flying “(2016) and” The Son “(2018). So many contemporary melodramas in the Anglo-Saxon fashion, well dressed, but uneven. With its surreal and anxiety-inducing side, “The Father”, an intriguing variation on Alzheimer’s disease, turns out to be his most convincing work. More agreed and linear, “The Son” sinks squarely into excess “melodrama”.

A favorite of private Parisian theaters, the playwright has tried his hand at the somewhat outdated genre of boulevard comedy… To better renew it or to make it implode? Here again the result is a real roller-coaster ride. If “The Truth” (2011) turns out to be a brilliant and particularly grating vaudeville, “Le Mensonge” (2015), an extreme abyss of adultery, goes round in circles. “L’Envers du décor” (2016), a big public success, flirts with triviality by dint of easy lines.

Despite these reservations, Florian Zeller undoubtedly conceals an author’s talent, a sense of dramatic construction – and a hidden depth that he will perhaps manage to express more in cinema. Proof of their qualities, his pieces have all been performed by great actors: Catherine Hiegel, Pierre Arditi, Daniel Auteuil, Fabrice Lucchini, the late Robert Hirsch and Isabelle Sadoyan.

In 2015, “Le Père” had already inspired “Florida” by Philippe Le Guay with Jean Rochefort in his last role. By setting his film in London and offering the role to Anthony Hopkins, Florian Zeller takes a whole different path. Portrait of a man who gets lost in the endless corridors of Alzheimer’s disease “The Father” is an agonizing journey that evokes the closed doors of Roman Polanski: “Rosmary’s Baby”, “The tenant” and the Londoner “Repulsion” .

Very skillfully, the staging circumscribes the ordinary space of an apartment … which Zeller will then modify discreetly, like a thief. Objects disappear, move, pieces are transformed, then it is the characters who change their face or identity … And little by little, just like the hero, the spectator gets lost, loses his footing, until Anthony Hopkins’ blue gaze opens like an abyss.

A regular family drama about aging, “The Father” is perhaps a very beautiful horror film in its own way. It will be released when the cinemas reopen.

Ref: https://www.lesechos.fr