By Morris Dean
In the course of preparing to kill herself on her twelfth birthday in the 2009 French film, Le hérisson [The Hedgehog] (directed by Mona Achache), Paloma Josse (Garance Le Guillermic) dissolves one of her mother's anti-depressant tablets that she's collecting for an overdose in her sister's goldfish bowl, and the fish shortly goes belly-up and is last seen being flushed down the toilet by Paloma.
Or, we thought it was the last time the fish was seen. The apartment building's grumpy but exceedingly well-read superintendant, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko), recently made less grumpy by striking up a friendship with her enigmatic and equally well-read neighbor, Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa), notices the fish swimming in her own toilet one day and, seeming to take its appearance there as a sort of blessing, puts it in a clear vase on her mantel.
In the course of Paloma's growing friendship with both the superintendant and Mr. Ozu, she comes to see that dying is not the point. The point is, what are you doing at the moment of death?
Looking at the goldfish in its vase, Paloma can see no more meaning in the fish's life than ever, but at least now she can smile in acceptance of life's large meaninglessness.
I highly recommend this artful, philosophical film and its engaging characters. The art includes skilled intermixing of Paloma's documentary film frames and motion drawings with the third-person film frames of the overviewer.
Copyright © 2012 by Morris Dean