SAVAGE STATE was a long and slow-paced movie with a simple story.
SAVAGE STATE (2021)
Savage State was intriguing to me for several reasons. It’s set in the 1860’s amidst the Civil War and I usually love period pieces. Secondly, the plot begins in Missouri which happens to be my home state. It looked like it could be a fun Western and I hadn’t seen a Western in ages, so I was eager to check it out.
I was not previously familiar with writer and director David Perrault so I went into Savage State a little blind, with no expectations. Perrault crafted a pretty interesting premise and an ambitious period piece set in the 1860’s. The most interesting part of Savage State was the cinematography. Perrault’s ability to tap into Christophe Duchange’s talents didn’t go to waste here. There are some absolutely breathtaking shots in this movie and that’s one of the main reasons to keep watching. Other than that, Perrault was perfectly adequate. He didn’t take a lot of risks and obviously set out to make a movie with a slow burn and in that he succeeded.
The plot of Savage State is extremely simplistic. A French family who has settled in Missouri, gets caught up in the Civil War in the 1860’s and decides to flee home to Paris. The family consists of the father, Edmund (Bruno Todeschini) who has business dealings that seem a bit shady. The mother, Madeleine (Constance Dollé), is concerned with raising her three daughters Abigaelle (Maryne Bertieaux), Justine (Déborah Franḉois), and Esther (Alice Isaaz). Esther gets the most focus in the story as she sticks out as the ornery member of the family. Edmund hires a man named Victor (Kevin Janssens) to get his family safely from Missouri to New York. Esther is immediately charmed by Victor and spends much of the movie pining after him. The family encounters some obstacles along the way mainly in the form of some convoluted villains who happen to appear. It’s not a complex story and the plot alone is merely passable.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters are somewhat interesting, but perhaps not as interesting as they might have been. My favorite character was Esther who was the spitfire of the group and the only one who seemed capable of any semblance of independence. She had a special bond with the family servant Layla (Armelle Abibou) and their relationship, which involved doing some type of voodoo together, was fascinating. The romantic plot line involving Esther and Victor just wasn’t quite there for me. They didn’t seem to have any chemistry and it seemed like all of a sudden we were supposed to just believe that Esther was in love with him. There was no buildup or scenes which led me to believe that prior. That might not have been the fault of the acting, merely a lacking screenplay. The acting and dialogue were both adequate enough to move the story along and not make me cringe, but I sensed some wasted opportunities to make the story really hit home.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
This being a period piece, the design was central to the story. The costuming was delightfully done with dresses and suits that brought the 1860’s to life. Likewise the design was your standard fare with horse-drawn wagons, candles at every corner, and a variety of guns that sparked and contained a limited number of rounds. The action scenes with the guns were very elaborate and most used some sort of slow motion to capture the firework-like sparks emitted by the weapons. It all felt very 1800’s to me which helped put you into the Western mindset as you watched. In addition, the outdoor scenes were picturesque and provided a nice backdrop for the story.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music stood out from the opening scene where low, foreboding, dramatic music lavished the background and built the tension. That same rhythm appeared throughout the movie during tense scenes and was very effective. The rest of the score was mostly your run of the mill musical selections. It got the job done but didn’t make the movie immensely more enjoyable.
Savage State was a long and slow-paced movie with a simple story. The best part about the movie was the gorgeous cinematography from Christophe Duchange which kept the movie interesting to watch. Writer and director David Perrault gives a valiant effort but suffers a bit from a lackluster script that doesn’t give enough backstory for the “villains.” The actors do their best with the material and Alice Isaaz shines as Esther. But Savage State didn’t quite live up to its title and would more aptly be described as, “slow-paced state.”
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release SAVAGE STATE On Demand and Digital on January 29, 2021