Culture | Troubled waters in Chicoutimi

Reflections on life and death in Tout Est Parfait

Only a few days after New Years, reflections on the most memorable films of 2008 began, and amongst the contenders one title stands out: Yves Christian Fournier’s Tout Est Parfait. The film, which centres on the life of a Quebec youth after the suicide of four of his friends, especially in light of recent events, is the single most important Quebec film of 2008.

2009 was christened with the shocking news of a murder-suicide in the Saguenay, a region five hours north of Montreal, seemingly reflecting Tout Est Parfait’s graphic images. On January 1, 2009, a 9-1-1 call was made by a woman leading police officers to her home in Chicoutimi, Quebec where her husband and the couple’s three young children were found dead. According to the police, the deaths were a result of a pact between the couple to commit suicide for the new year.

Tout Est Parfait, an award-winning film written by Guillaume Vigneault and directed by Fournier, unfolds a plot which chillingly echoes these recent events, as well as those of a 1993 suicide pact, when six children in the community of Davis Inlet, Labrador attempted to commit suicide on the anniversary of the deaths of their friends who had earlier died in a house fire.

Mainly concerned with the aftermaths of youth suicide in a typical industrial town, the film focuses on the emptiness and silence that befalls the community and on the space in between choosing life or choosing death. The film sees Josh (Maxime Dumontier) struggling with the deaths of his friends Alex, Simon, Thomas, and Sacha. Through his interactions with Sacha’s ex-girlfriend and Thomas’ father, Josh tries to come to terms with how to live “normally.” Although the group of boys at the centre of the storyline are not often depicted alive, for the brief moments that these characters are on the screen, they leave an intense imprint, which remains even after the credits have rolled.

Music drives the emotional tension in the film; music and silences serve to demonstrate the difficulty of speaking about the emotions tied to suicide and turmoil that follows such a dramatic event in the lives of those left to mourn a friend’s suicide. Notably, singer-songwriter Cat Power sets the mood for two climactic moments of the film with her song “Maybe Not” and her cover of “Troubled Waters.” Reflecting on the events that began 2009 in the community of Saguenay Lac-St-Jean is easily likened to the emotion found in the songs of Cat Power, which was masterfully chosen by the film’s music researcher Phil Electric. The original score, composed by Patrick Lavoie, is also an important factor in the way that the film manages to establish its setting and mood so expertly.

Tout Est Parfait addresses the difficult subject of suicide in Quebec in an engaging and artistic way. Its importance for those who have lived or know those who have lived similar circumstances cannot be overstated.