The Shimmering Beast
Canada, 127 min
Although its pretext is the reunion of ten mates in a cottage in the Manikawi region for their ritual moose hunt, this is not a hunting film. Here, what interests Pierre Perrault, the “camera-wizard” of Quebecker identity, is rather the “great tournament of speech where the soul doesn’t hide."
Ten city dwellers convene in a chalet deep in the woods of Upper Gatineau for their ritual week of moose hunting, the mythical “shimmering beast” and totem-animal of the Native Americans that also permeates Quebecker imagination. Stéphane-Albert, a poet enamoured with idealism, quickly finds himself at odds with the atmosphere of the nocturnal binge drinking, peppered with gravelly jokes, within this virile community, which gradually transforms into a pack to hunt down a new game: the weakest in the group, who becomes its whipping boy. Pierre Perrault (1927-1999), an essential figure in Canadian documentary making, and a former radio announcer, came to cinema (direct) to film the spoken word. It is therefore less the practice of hunting that interests the director here—even if he perfectly captures the wait, the heightened senses, the silent spell that seizes these men stalking their prey—than the drunken huis-clos that follows it. It is in this confined space that another ritual is performed, that of the “great tournament of words where the soul does not hide.”