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'On ne sait pas grand-chose de nos enfants': Grief and Mourning in Guillaume Nicloux's Valley of Love (2015)

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In Guillaume Nicloux's 2015 film Valley of Love, two famous actors who used to be a couple, played by Isabelle Huppert and GĂ©rard Depardieu, reunite after their son's recent suicide. They have received a posthumous letter from him, asking them to visit five places at Death Valley in California, after which, on a certain day, he will 'appear' to them. Valley of Love offers both a realist representation of two grieving parents and an incursion into the supernatural (has the son 'come back'? how will he 'appear' to his parents?).
Valley of Love borrows from Colin Parkes's phase theory (1972, 1983) of how the bereaved return to feelings of safety and security as they resolve their grief. Parkes argues that the bereaved must progress through four overlapping phases of grief. In the first phase, individuals have difficulty grasping that the death has occurred. In the second phase, they seek out the deceased, trying to bring them back into close proximity to relieve their feelings of separation anxiety. In the third phase, the individual becomes confused, has trouble focusing, and becomes dejected. It is in the fourth phase that the individual realises that life can continue without the deceased and begins to rebuild life without them.
This article will survey how grief and mourning are articulated and resolved in Valley of Love through close readings of the film and Parkes's writing on bereavement, grief and the phases of mourning. We shall also explore the film's various visual and aural manifestations of grief, and demonstrate how the Death Valley setting becomes an ideal site for the expression of mourning as the parents negotiate the pain and grief surrounding their child's death.
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Keywords: BEREAVEMENT; COLIN PARKES; GRIEF; MOURNING; PHASE THEORY; VALLEY OF LOVE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 9, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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