For the MUBIVIEWS debut film we wanted to challenge our writers by discussing the sensitive topic of gender exploration, which is so rarely seen from a child’s point-of-view. The film in question is French social realist drama TOMBOY (Céline Sciamma 2011) about a ten-year-old tomboy who passes as a boy to her friends throughout the course of the summer. The unfamiliar setting for the protagonist Laure (Zoé Héran) allows her to safely experiment with her gender through her persona Mickäel. The film tackles isolation, identity and friendship in a tone which MUBI itself describes as ‘delicate and insightful’ highlighting the innocence behind the film.
In TOMBOY (Céline Sciamma 2011), Laure (Zoé Héran) silently models in front of a sheet of blue and pink floral fabric as his little sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana), draws her portrait. The striking duality of the colour scheme used for the cloth is reflective of the identity struggle that Laure experiences, as she explores her masculinity in the guise of "Mickäel" for much of the film. While the pink floral designs reflect Laure's more feminine qualities, the blue dominates the fabric, signifying the masculine mindset of her male persona.
Jeanne is aware of Laure’s gender exploration and even helps her maintain a masculine appearance by cutting her hair later in the film. But in this scene, Laure appears nervous while at the mercy of Jeanne’s drawing. The camera focuses on Laure as she stares with subtle apprehension at her sister, exposed to her artistic observations as she begins to draw her sibling. Instead of drawing Laure's piercing blue eyes, Jeanne opts to use brown eyes for the portrait. For Jeanne, the boundaries of eye colour are equally as fluid as Laure’s gender exploration, reflecting Jeanne's innocence and the acceptance she has for her sibling’s identity.
The entire scene embodies the acceptance that Laure longs for throughout the film; she finds comfort in Jeanne's innocence and that she is not concerned with the gender of her older sibling. TOMBOY offers both positive and negative responses to Laure passing as a boy but this scene presents the ideal scenario that Laure desires. In this case, Jeanne is unfazed by Laure’s exploration as Mickäel. Once the doorbell rings, the tranquil environment that the siblings inhabit is broken and reality and societal judgement set in once more.
Every day this week a different writer will provide their perspective on our MUBIVIEWS film and each post will be open to comments from our readers. Watch TOMBOY on mubi.com until 3 April 2017 and join the discussion!
One MUBI film, five perspectives, endless possibilities.