(The script was originally developed with Tall Stories for BBC Scotland and BBC Films then through The Film Council in 1998)
IVUL is the extraordinary story of Alex (Jacob Auzanneau), a young man who climbs on to the roof of his house and refuses to ever come back down to earth. His actions devastate his beloved family and we watch as their world falls apart.
The eccentric tree-loving father (Jean-Luc Bideau) succumbs to a stroke, the young energetic mother (Aurélia Petit), turns to drink and the older sister (Adélaide Leroux), responsible in many ways for Alex’s actions has to grow up very quickly. A dark and mysterious gardener (Tchili from This Filthy Earth) keeps watch over the family but is powerless to exorcise the curse that he feels has befallen them. Meanwhile the twin sisters (Manon and Capucine) provide light but sometimes macabre relief.
The world of IVUL is a world of both fairytale and nightmare with the family manor house and forest landscape providing a compelling backdrop to the story.
Alex Ivul lives out a brief and dramatic life in exile looking down upon a world that he is too stubborn to return to but ultimately manages to fulfil his pledge of never setting foot on the earth again.
As a child I spent many hours hiding up trees away from a difficult relationship with my father. High above the ground the world seemed less frightening. I played at being Tarzan or Robin Hood safe in the knowledge that the trees would hide and protect me.
Tree climbing is something that has never left me and as an adult I have enjoyed many hours in the forests of the French Pyrenees looking down on the world below. It was from the top of one of these trees that the idea for Ivul first came to me.
Inspired by these early memories I wanted to tell the story about a young boy that leaves home to live alone off the ground away from his family.
A small cast of actors and non-actors help create a world of magical realism firmly rooted in the power of everyday lives. Chronicling the disintegration of a close-knit family the film shows the tragic consequences of a teenage boy being wrongly accused of abusing his sister.
He vows never to set foot on the earth again and is transformed from boy to man whilst living deep in the Pyrenean forests.
A crumbling manor house somewhere deep in the French Pyrenees and Alex is enjoying a boisterous carefree summer with his beloved sister Freya and their mischievous twin sisters, Capucine and Manon. The children inhabit a world of childhood games and romantic dreams.
Andrei, their eccentric Russian father enjoys life through the lens of a microscope or by walking amongst the trees of his arboretum. His young wife Marie is proud of her family but wishes that just sometimes her husband might exert some control over his wayward offspring.
Keeping vigil on the family is Lek, the mysterious tongue-tied gardener and general dogs-body. He left Russia as a young child with Andrei and has followed him like a shadow ever since.
Pressure builds for Alex as Freya prepares to leave for Russia. When the brother and sister are discovered in a stolen moment of playful intimacy, their innocence is brought sharply to an end and the family are torn apart.
In a fit of rage, Andrei disowns his son and forces him out of the family home. Alex climbs onto the roof of the house and vows never to set foot on the earth again.
Winter sets in with no sign of Alex. Marie worries but tries to hold the family together, however it is all too much for Andrei and his state of mind begins to deteriorate. On Christmas day the twins read out a card from Freya and Andrei cracks, he takes a ladder out into the garden in a desperate attempt to find Alex. He falls to the ground and has a stroke.
Spring arrives and a remorseful Freya returns from Russia to look after her bed-ridden father. The twins seem to delight in Andrei’s new predicament but Marie has started drinking and the family are reeling from the strain. They still have no idea of Alex’s whereabouts. Lek is angry and sacrifices two lambs as a pagan offering to the curse that he feels has befallen the family.
Deep in the forest Alex is a boy reborn a man. He has become feral and weather-beaten and moves with ease amongst his treetop kingdom. His new home is a caravan that he has managed to haul up a tree.
Freya has taken on the role of the mother and eventually has to rescue Marie from one of her many drunken bouts in the local bar. On the way home she is compelled by a powerful force to stop the car and rage at her brother who she knows is somewhere in the forest.
Freya tries to remain strong but a new tension overcomes her as she revisits Alex’s bedroom and begins to re-examine her past. She sets out to find him and is drawn into the night where she comes across Alex’s incredible abode. There is a silent and emotional reunion for them after which they fall into a deep stupor.
Meanwhile Lek has followed Freya and sets about making a strange incantation. He lights a circle of fire underneath the caravan in an attempt to cleanse the children of their desire for one another. The fire gets out of control and Lek struggles to help Freya to safety.
Despite the pleading of both Freya and Lek, Alex refuses to come down and instead steps back into the blazing caravan. Through the pandemonium he surveys his kingdom one last time.
We watch as the inferno destroys the caravan and the surrounding forest. We can only imagine that Alex has died but the smoke clears to reveal him atop of the castle at Montsegur, he is still off ground and walking the ramparts.
Alex Ivul never did touch the earth.
"If you have built castles in the air, your work
need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations
“Alex, do you know what best characterizes a civilisation? - Trees!
A civilization develops when old men plant trees knowing that they will never rest in their shade”
“A long time before Christ, Pagans planted trees in
the names of their children to connect the divine with the earthbound
aspects of the soul. The planting of trees enabled the child’s
imagination to live both on the ground and off the ground.”
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