Article by Romeo Gjokaj
Translation by Camilla Lippi
Lydia (Hafsia Herzi) and Salomé’s lives are intricately and specularly linked: if one of them is happy, the other one suffers and viceversa. Therefore, on the same day that Salomé celebrates her birthday and her newly discovered pregnancy, Lydia mourns the end of her relationship with her boyfriend, letting herself go to a lonely and alienated autumnal Paris that resembles Taxi Driver’s (1976) New York. However, when Salomé gives birth, Lydia runs into Milos (Alexis Manenti) – an insomniac bus driver that impersonates De Niro’s Travis Bickle and with whom Lydia previously had a fling – and realizes that the newborn represents a desperate attempt for her to finally feel loved.
Lydia works as a midwife and at this point, she is used to witnessing the happiness of others as a spectator on a daily basis, the same happiness which is reflected in the eyes of the new mothers that she assists in the hospital. Alone in the world, Salomé is the only person that she can identify as family. Lydia follows her pregnancy step by step, from the first weeks of gestation to the challenging time of birth. She’s the first to hold the newcomer and she’s the one to name her: Esmée, from Latin «one who is loved». Lydia feels almost like that baby is her own. That’s why it comes so natural to her to feel like a mother as she walks holding the baby in her arms, and when she bumps into Milos, it comes even more natural to her to make him believe that that is her, or rather, their daughter. It is a lie told almost out of spite that triggers an unstoppable succession of events. The idea of being able to build something that is vaguely similar to a family around that lie justifies any mean and, after forging (falsifying) Milo’s paternity test, Lydia takes advantage of her friend’s postpartum depression to take care of Esmée and to find more and more time of deceptive happiness to spend with the unaware “father”.
For her first feature film – presented at the 62nd Cannes Semaine de la critique and in competition at the 41st Torino Film Festival – director Iris Kaltenbäck deals with a theme already seen in her short film Le vol des cigognes (“The flight of the storks”, 2015) once again, switching things up: back then, the main character had stolen a newborn from a hospital and went home to wait for her boyfriend to return from the army, trying to gain as much time as possible before the truth inevitably came to light. Even in Le Ravissement (The Rapture) Lydia knows that the clock’s ticking on her deceit, but she cannot help but cultivate what, for her, is not deceit: her overwhelming love for Esmée and Milos. How could she give it up? This is the question the director is trying to answer, investigating through the narrative voice of Milos, which tries to penetrate the woman’s hermetic shell, constantly followed by the camera throughout her wanderings through the cold Paris that serves as the backdrop to the lonely and alienated love of the two protagonists.