#296: CPH:DOX – L’amour des Moules (2012)

This Dutch/Belgian/French co-production documentary is as small, delicate and wonderful as it’s subject matter. From Netherlands’ based artist Willemiek  Kluijfhout, it is a fascinatingly detailed exploration of the most humble sea urchin, the mussel. Looking at first at it’s obvious culinary use, the short documentary is at it’s most enlightening when we see the mussels scientific, life saving capabilities, and the rivalry between Belgian and Dutch farmers.

Kluijfhout has a remarkable ability to convey her own passion for the subject, whilst also making it universally appealing for the audience. We observe its total life cycle: the mussel that procreates, the mussel that doesn’t let up, and the mussel that is cast off as ‘bad’. Along the way, we encounter passionate enthusiasts who also fall in love, struggle and overcome. A biologist ntroduces us to the sexual habitat of mussels, and then she becomes pregnant – by a mussel farmer! Sergio Herman, from Holland’s best restaurant Oud Sluis, portrays how the mussel has turned him into a Michelin starred chef. At it’s weirdest, a gynaecologist hypothesises that the natural glue from the mussel membrane can save the lives of unborn babies. And then there’s the Miss Mussel pageant – yeah, that’s weird.

It may be twee and saccharine, but L’amour des Moules (Mussels in Love, in English) is an accomplished and, more importantly, complete documentary on a very specific subject. Like a minitaure Blue Planet, if aquatic nature is your thing then you’ll love L’amour des Moules.

★★★☆☆
No IMDB, but check out the movie website

Here’s a recording of a Q&A I hosted at the CPH:DOX film festival with the movie director Willemiek. She details how she managed to finance this pet project, and the depth of research she immersed herself in.

CPH:DOX is one of the world’s biggest film festivals dedicated to documentary practice, with an interest in particularly experimental audio/visual work. You can follow all of my coverage here. For more info please visit the festival website.

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