“Camping du lac” by Éléonore Saintagnan

Article by Elisa Gnani

Translation by Carolina Criscuolo

Climate change is not a fairy tale, and the director makes this clear. Éléonore Saintagnan immerses us in an unusual atmosphere, almost as if it was a science fiction film. I prefer to label it as a fictional feature teetering on the edge of reality — a film that calls into question a monster to shed light on a pressing issue: the drying up of lakes.

Camping du lac (“Camping by the lake”), winner of the Ciné+ jury prize at the Locarno Film Festival 2023, is currently competing at the 41st Turin Film Festival. The narrative unfolds as it follows a young woman (portrayed by Éléonore Saintagnan herself) on her way to the sea when her car unexpectedly breaks down in the Breton countryside. Unable to continue her journey, Éléonore decides to rent a bungalow at a campsite located by a lake rumoured to be home to a legendary creature. The campsite, serving as the only meeting point among the characters, exudes a mysterious charm — it is beckoning and captivating, but the reason is unknown.

While one might initially assume that Éléonore is the protagonist, it’s actually the creature — bearing a resemblance to the Loch Ness monster — that evokes awe and curiosity at the same time. Around this creature, the ecological theme unfolds, initially hinted at in the film’s opening but fully manifested in the epilogue. The director skillfully presents an environmental crisis by revealing an enormous six-meter long fish, previously unseen despite its colossal size. This discovery emphasizes an urgent problem: the water level in the basin has drastically dropped, causing the creature not only to be exposed but also stranded on land. The sound effects reinforce the warning as silence descends, mourning the demise of this monstrous creature, as if marking its funeral. Using the director’s words, it is a death which is closer to us than we think, extending beyond the fate of the fish.

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