Overseas

1990 Directed by Brigitte Rouan. Starring Brigitte Rouan, Nicole Garcia, Marianne Basler.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 1, 1992

Three French sisters live the lives of detached colonialists in late-Forties Algeria in this auspicious directing debut by Rouan (who also stars as one of the sisters). Their world is filtered through a scrim of privilege and dappled light. They are engulfed by the vast horizons of water as well as by the barbed wire barriers erected to keep the revolutionary agitators at bay. On the surface, the story seems conventional, one of those French reflections -- part wisdom, part whimsy -- about three different, yet very alike women and their loves and their attitudes. But, gradually, we come to see the metaphorical barbed wires that contain their thoughts, dreams and ambitions. It is here that Overseas becomes something of a feminist meditation as well as an anti-colonialist barb. Zon (played by Garcia, the director of Every Other Weekend) is the eldest and is married to a naval officer who, though mostly away at sea, manages to impregnate her nearly every time he docks. Initially, we think Zon is the central character in this story, for what we are shown are her pleasures and her tribulations. Then, after her life reaches a difficult emotional pitch, the movie's perspective suddenly shifts and begins replaying key events, only this time from another sister's vantage point. Now, the focus is on Malene (Rouan) and her marriage which compels her to wear the pants in the family because she married an effete man who's ill-suited to the life of a plantation owner. (He's always sitting reading a book while Malene is out working the fields and when they fight, Malene begs him to rise up out of his seat and at least be a man she can look up to.) She is her husband's proxy when it comes to dealing with the disgruntled native workers and when her own destructive fury finally erupts, she allows the blame to fall on one of the hapless rebels. By the third repetition, the film's emphasis shifts to the youngest sister, Gritte (Basler) who won't commit herself to marriage (she keeps losing her engagement ring) and works as a nurse (because her father won't allow her to become a doctor). She is also the one to become more intimately involved in the revolutionary ferment. What's most striking and memorable about Overseas is its unusual narrative structure that is both familiar and disorienting in its repetitive, backtracking, repositioning points of view. It relies too much of the time on the threadbare conventions of standard “women in love” stories, but its unconventional narrative format allows it to burrow in and poke intelligently through the ruins.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Overseas
Overseas at Home
Overseas at Home
Indie all-stars debut at the Parish

Doug Freeman, Aug. 5, 2013

More Overseas
Texas Platters
Overseas
Overseas (Record Review)

Austin Powell, June 28, 2013

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Sound Unseen Review: <i>Stardust</i>
Sound Unseen Review: Stardust
The birth of Bowie the icon retold with more glimmer than glitter

Nov. 16, 2020

Damnation
Béla Tarr's turning point drama lovingly and bleakly restored

Nov. 13, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Overseas, Brigitte Rouan, Brigitte Rouan, Nicole Garcia, Marianne Basler

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle