When I Replaced Camille (Quand j’ai remplacé Camille): A horror video short review.
To our new C.H.U.D. readers and our returning O.G.’s. I bid you….
Welcome to Barry’s Basement of Oddities!
Every week, dear readers, I will deliver three short films of my choosing. Sometimes, we’ll have a theme, sometimes a stream of thought. What I’m presenting to you is part fun house ride, part classroom, and part getting wasted with your buddies on weekend. This is a horror series, but I’m here to show you the gems. It’ll be scary sometimes, funny, perhaps even thought provoking, but it won’t be boring. Don’t expect zombies.
The Story: Laure is not to be envied. At all. The weight of having to replace the star of her swim team and not being able to match her performance is, at best, problematic. Complicating things is the fact that her predecessor, Camille, (spoiler) is dead.
The Rundown: “Quand j’ai remplacé Camille” is a lean, sad, beast. It’s the sort of film that were it were made into a full length feature, it would lose some of its magic in the hands of a lesser team. Things would be explained as opposed to being revealed. Plot points would be stated expressly as opposed to letting a viewer fill in the details for themselves. Fortunately you’ve (hopefully) watched it and know exactly what I’m talking about.
We enter the film weeks after the death of the eponymous Camille. Whilst she was beloved, we know nothing about her other than her swimming ability and that her flowing hair was stop sign red. It’s not a stretch to think that those were the only details that the members of her swim team knew about her. They judged her by her skill in the pool, the same criteria by which they now judge her replacement, Laure.
Laure is not that different than most people: she wants to be liked. She wants to do well. She wants to live her best life. Her teammates indicate that, in their eyes, she’s batting 0 for 3. Laure takes the displeasure of her teammates and pushes herself: after hours swim practice, negative self talk, and constantly comparing herself to the one that came before. Does this sound familiar to any of my Type-A friends out there? It is in the solitude of the pool that Camille takes notice of her successor, appearing to Laure as a waterbound spectre.
One of the easy answers that “Quand j’ai remplacé Camille” withholds is how Camille died. It’s vaguely apparent that swimming was the thing that killed her, if not what swimming represents in a world where your only value is what you produce. Laure is clay being molded to function as Camille once did, swimming meter by meter, racing towards a similar fate.
Another easy answer denied the viewer is a practical one. Is this a ghost story? Short answer: yes. Longer answer: maybe? Whether she is a real (dead) thing or a figment of Laure’s stress is never addressed. Laure has no one she can turn to and even fewer people who would listen. She continues to swim although she is given every reason to stop.
The power and complicated simplicity of the art style lurks somewhere between Wes Anderson and Gregory Crewdson. Elements of expressionism bleed into realism with the style remaining primarily in the latter. It invokes that dark space between childhood and adulthood where in the pursuit of trying to be liked, we forget to say “no” to things we’d rather not be dealing with. The final, emotionally distant shot of Camille looking at Laure says as much. It’s the gaze, not of a monster defeated, but of a warning not heeded.
We all should be so lucky as to have a ghost like that in our lives.
What Movie Should I Watch After This? “It Follows,” “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”
Writer. Wrestling mark. Dog parent. Halloween enthusiast. Always wondering about the me on Earth 616 and what he/she/it’s up to. Currently residing in Los Angeles.