Belleville Baby by Mia Engberg

Belleville Baby
Directed by Mia Engberg
Initial release: September 27, 2013
Screening: Oakland Underground Film Festival, Oakland, CA
September 28, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
Watch trailer here

Review One

Showing the triumph of human connection over time and distance, Belleville Baby is born from a classic theme that is as overwrought as it is inspirational. “We are nothing without our memories” echoes throughout its landscape in different forms, different voices, etching the pattern of a fugue.

A call from the past shakes Mia from her “life of quiet desperation” as a mother and filmmaker. Her long-lost lover calls her after escaping a lengthy stint in prison; after some reticence, she agrees to comply with his demands. He no longer wants her; he wants her memories.

She conjures the pivotal points of their past life together—how he struck their cat Baby against the wall to end her misery when she was stricken with illness; how she assisted his drug operation due to her persistent ethic of adventure, albeit an outsider to its machinery; how they spent time in a quaint, windowless room above the city, separated from the strands of everyday life as two people bonded against the hostile world.

She tells him how, after he left her, she enrolled in film school and created a montage of her grandmother's life. While doing so, she encountered a few entries in her grandmother's diary denoting eternal devotion to a man shrouded in mystery, removed with black pen and covered with red tape.

Mia mentions that someday her love for Vincent will be reduced to just a scribbled-out symbol in the same way her grandmother's affections for her lover were buried in history.

And though she pleads to meet with Vincent once again so that she can bring the images of the past into focus, he refuses, saying that he is no longer the man that he used to be. She weaves this film together, presumably, as a way of bringing him back into her life. As we honor our dead, so does Mia mourn the passing of her bond with Vincent.

In summary: 3.5/5 stars

Shelby Keizer
Nomadic Press
Keizer is a writer, thinker, and aspiring Renaissance woman with a special affinity for the past and for the future. She is wedded to the invisible.

Review Two

Mia answers a phone call in the midst of her straight-laced life as a filmmaker and a mother in Sweden, and through the earpiece emerges the long-lost Vincent, from Paris, along with Mia's past. Belleville Baby is the mostly-true story of an enduring connection forged in unrest, and broken. Presumed gone, it returns again to life, not to be ignored. It is about the impossibility of ever forgetting a true connection.

Vincent lives more on the fringes of society, Mia discovers, than he did when they were together years ago. Little else could be expected of such a character; Vincent's childhood began and ended with abandonment, and his coming of age taught him how to thrive in society’s shadows. He knew nothing of the law-abiding lifestyle, nor did he ever discover that he could learn, forcing him to depart from his life together with Mia. His long absence, he reveals, was occupied by a prison sentence handed to him for crimes committed by a Vincent more hardened than the one Mia had known.

Mia never needed to steer so far off the beaten path to make her way through life, but Vincent captured her attention during their youths nonetheless, before his decade-long disappearance. Now, through low-fidelity, telephone-muddled voices, he requests – and she recants – her memories of their time together.

Winter walks over frozen Swedish lakes, the feeling of being one with someone for the first time, and partaking in French protests against austerity are recalled as the two reach across the chasm of their separated lifestyles to reconnect. His dangerousness, she says, is what made him seem so strong to her. It is also what made him leave, and the reason why he cautions her not to visit him in Paris.

As the peacefully forlorn imagery in Bellevue Baby is narrated by the exchange between the unseen Mia and Vincent, as well as by Mia's memories, the beloved and the brutal are evoked and dealt with. Ultimately, Vincent's fear of exposing Mia to his dark history and Mia's longing to rekindle their bond are both insisted upon, and it is to be seen whether or not what remains between them can overcome the weight of his deeds.

Justin Quirici
Nomadic Press
Quirici is a writer and a wanderer. Having studied the philosophy of consciousness and the science of communication, Justin uses what he has learned to merge perspectives where possible and to offer his own views from outside the norm where needed.