A couple and their child are fleeing as if they were stalked by a war that can only be seen on their faces and through their gestures. They move away from their house and then run through the fields, cross roads and forests. But the child progressively comes off the terror that has taken hold of them.
One of the experimental works created from the cadre of radical, emerging artists financed under the rubric of Zanzibar films that captured the spirit of May 68 and the counter culture revolution, Philippe Garrel's silent film Le Révélateur is a fractured and elliptical, but instinctive, elemental, and haunting rumination on the process of awakening, maturation, psychological trauma, and transformation of childhood memory. As the film begins, the révélateur - the processor of the images - is embodied through the isolated, spotlighted shot of a young boy (Stanislas Robiolles) in the corner of the frame, looking on as his father (Laurent Terzieff), apparently unaware of his presence in the room, struggles to connect with his abstracted mother (Bernadette Lafont) in an act of implied intimacy through the (iconic) sharing of a cigarette before fading into the proverbial background through a doorway suffused in a halo of light. But despite the physical act of transitory connection, what is ultimately retained in the child's camera/eye is not the residual image of tenderness and affection, but rather, a pattern of codependency, manipulation, madness, isolation, and perhaps even violence - an estrangement that is prefigured in the Freudian, reverse pietà image of the child emerging from a long, dark passageway towards his kneeling mother held in (apparently) resigned captivity tied to a cross at the end of the tunnel - a sense of pervasive emotional alienation and moral bondage that is further reinforced by the austerity and desolation of a seemingly godless, post-apocalyptic landscape. Pursued by an unseen, anonymous, but ubiquitous enemy (perhaps an allusion to the faceless nature of the embedded, guerrilla warfare tactics of the Vietnam War), the young family is compelled to leave the comfort of their dysfunctional home life and embark on an interminable journey to nowhere. Reduced to a life of perpetual exile and transience, the child begins to rebel, a defiance of parental control that is manifested in an act of literal repellance through his directed, repeated triggering of an aerosol can (in an elegantly composed, superimposed traveling shot) that further underscores his willful, symbolic act of distanciation from his parents. Reinforced by the subsequent shot of his parents posed as seeming trophy heads displayed on the corners of his headboard, the macabre image serves, not only to illustrate their role as trophic figures that he is weaning away from, but also represent their figurative impotence in his inevitable process of autonomy and independence. Concluding with the child donning his makeshift armor as he heads towards the sea, the image evokes a more primal Antoine Doinel (the adolescent alterego of François Truffaut's The 400 Blows) facing an alien and inalterable horizon - a silent and quixotic defiance against the oppressive and implacable forces of a cruel and inhuman human nature.
Source : filmref.com
Le Revelateur "turns around what psychoanalysis calls 'le scene primitive': the birth of a film, the birth of a child, the first time a child sees his parents making love", the primal scene (like the incestuous Oedipal crime committed by Ethan Hunt [Tom Cruise] in De Palma's Mission: Impossible ) has been erased from the text's surface, represented only obliquely by having the father share a cigarette with the mother in the pre-title sequence. The film is actually remarkable for its almost complete lack of sexuality, and while one can argue that the sexual aspects have been repressed, it is also possible that they are simply not there, irrelevant to the auteur's purpose. Trauma arises not from the observation of parental intercourse, but, on the contrary, from the child's acute awareness that his mother and father no longer have any physical relationship whatsoever - the emphasis throughout is on their alienation, isolation, distance, estrangement and lack of intimacy. The nature of the boy's abuse is, as so often, a matter of neglect and emotional withdrawal - a point Garrel makes, with sublime simplicity and directness, by presenting the scene in which the parents argue and gesture angrily at their son as a theatrical performance taking place on an actual stage.
Source : centreimage.ch
This movie is in black and white and there is no sound whatsoever, no soundtrack even. Apparently Henri Langlois, the eminence grise of the French New Wave was fond of playing silent movies at the Cinematheque Francaise without the intertitles, or foreign movies without subtitles because he wanted people to concentrate on the images. That after all is the unique feature of film, the moving image. So Garrel bought into this and created some films which were just telling a story with image, to do that you have to be pretty talented, you can't pretend you're good by layering Bach's Matthaus Passion over some hyperedited pap.
Garrel made Le Révélateur after it was clear that the 1968 revolution in Paris was grounding to a halt. He went to Germany where some of the revolutionaries had ended up in exile.
It's pretty haunted by the spectre of persecution, the family are always on the run from something or someone, although we don't ever see what that is. it's mostly shot at night with large spotlights trained on the participants. So Le Revelateur means The Revealer, basically the child is being shown somehow as being the key to the future, in the first scene he's actually holding a key in his hand. Perhaps Garrel is referring to the redemptive powers of parenthood, or to the lack of guile or immoral sophistication, and the protean nature of children. Or perhaps he was saying that the revolution would have to wait till '88. Bad luck PG even '08 has been and gone.
Several times he's trying to show us things from a child's point of view, an argument between the parents is shown as a theatrical scene on a stage, with the child as a sole audience member.
The films strangeness, I found out afterwards, is partly due to the fact that Garrel had the cast on LSD when shooting this (excepting the child).
Source : IMDb