the ideal palace
DIRECTOR: Nils Tavernier (the finishers, aurora)
starring: jacques gamblin, laetitia casta, bernard le coq, and Louka Petit Taborelli
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A French postman dedicates 33 years of his life to building his daughter a stone palace.
Gone are the days of good video stores that would recommend films to you outside of your normal film diet. One of the great perks of being a film reviewer is that you get to see films that, for whatever reasons, may have passed you by. And The Ideal Palace is a great little film that you shouldn't allow to pass you by.
At the end of the 19th century, Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, is a simple postman who travels every day along the Drôme, from village to village. Alone, he is upset when he meets the woman of his life, Philomena. From their union Alice was born. For this child he loves more than anything, Cheval then throws himself into a crazy gamble: to build her with his own hands, an incredible palace. Never spared by the ordeals of life, this ordinary man will not give up and will devote 33 years to build an extraordinary work: "The Ideal Palace".
A lot of the beauty of The Ideal Palace lies in its simplicity. Its about a simple man, in simpler times, who lives, for the most part, a very simple life. But its his life's work, the palace that he builds for his daughter, that transcends the mundane and simplicity of his world.
Despite his circumstances, Cheval created something that would not only outlast him but inspire others and leave them awestruck at the beauty he had created. Cheval was not spared tragedy in his life and we witness that his palace was his memorial to those he had lost.
At times the story can briefly feel as though its a bit narratively slow, but the pay off is beautiful in its simplistic triumph.
Jacques Gamblin is perfection as Cheval, perfectly conveying his introspection and emotional constraint which was expected from men on his day and age. But when he is alone we see the desperation, loss, pain, and anger he truly feels. Its a performance of searing magnificence.
(French with English subtitles).
The Ideal Palace is an ode to the ability of humanity to create beauty in the most mundane of places.