Love according to Dalva deals with the theme of pedophilia with a sense of proportion and sensitivity, thanks also to the very young and extraordinary protagonist Zelda Samson. Daniela Catelli’s review.
In competition at the Semaine de la Critique of the Cannes Film Festival 2002, the first work Love according to Dalva won the FIPRESCI Award and the Rising Star Award for the very young protagonist Zelda Samson, as well as the Audience Award at the recent Rotterdam Film Festival. All deserved awards, in our opinion, for a film that deals with the scabrous theme of pedophilia, a real social scourge, with a lucid, objective and never judgmental gaze but showing the emancipation of the victim of an unforgivable crime and his difficult reconquest of her status as a child. It is on this journey backwards that, thanks to the realistic construction of the story and the extraordinary performance of the protagonist (just eleven at the time of filming, and one cannot believe it), the director Emmanuelle Nicot it leads us, to show us the difficult path of a soul wounded and plagiarized by a horrible violence.
The film begins with the police raiding a house, where a man is forcibly taken away in the midst of a disorder that denotes a temporary and hurried stay. In the other room is a little girl. The two scream, they call each other, they rebel. Then the little girl, Dalva, is taken to a reception center for minors from situations of violence and degradation. Although she hasn’t had her period yet, the little girl already looks like a woman: made up and dressed as an adult, in the last attempt of a sick mind (that of her father) to normalize the horror. The physical one is the only type of love Dalva has ever known and therefore she does not accept separation from the man who wants to protect her, who taught her everything and with whom she has a “special” relationship, putting the patience of educators to the test. well aware of the situation. After repeated escapes and fights at school to defend themselves from the insults of cruel companions, the inability to adapt and the awareness of being different from the others that slowly makes its way, Dalva will eventually understand that hers is a distorted worldview and unreal: kidnapped by her father at the age of 5, she has always lived on the run, without ever experiencing the joys of childhood, reduced to a doll with no will but with strict rules of conduct, with seduction as the only legitimate tool to gain acceptance and love.
Dalva idolizes her father to such an extent that when she finally manages to get to meet him in prison, to ask him to confirm their “truth”, we are shocked to see a normal, unattractive and decidedly old-looking man, because we too, through her eyes, with which we identify from the beginning, we have transfigured reality until then. Love according to Dalva is a film lived entirely from the perspective of the protagonist, who refuses the role of victim but with enormous effort and intelligence, thanks to an indomitable fortitude and the friendship she forms with a girl of the same age in the family home, which often puts her brutally faced with the reality of the facts, she manages to come to terms with the upside-down life she has lived, not by choice until then, until she returns to the little girl she never was (exemplarily rendered in the touching scene in which she cuts her hair and we see her as she really is) and to appear alongside her mother found in court.
Above all, this story of a mother and daughter so brutally wounded will touch the most sensitive audience and in particular the female one, because the point of view is obviously that of women, who even in non-extreme cases like the one told in the film, in this society are often forced to experience their body as if it didn’t belong to them and to make sexuality a bargaining chip. With the camera locked on the impossibly beautiful and expressive face of his protagonist, Love according to Dalva it leads us into a world that we know exists but where we would never want to enter, without easy effects but respecting the viewer and the theme it deals with, on which it demonstrates a non-superficial knowledge. A more than promising debut that of this new French author, whose next tests we await with confidence.