Gens du lac

← Part of the Collection: Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub
Gens du lac

A smuggler helps refugees and resistance fighters to escape.


“Many of Huillet and Straub's films are set in landscapes of green and brown. Straub's last two films, Gens du lac and La France contre les robots, are set in blue. Unlike the trees, fields, and hilltops of the green and brown landscapes, water does not have a solid form. "To live means to have a form," Straub once said. The film's 17 minutes and 54 seconds comprise 6 shots and 4 passages of black screen. The soundtrack consists of a reading (from Janine Massard's novel Gens du lac) about the political history of Lake Geneva. Refugee boats crossed the lake during World War II. Water knows no borders.

Two important screenings of the film:

  • May 20, 2018, Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N. Alvarado Street, Los Angeles: Gens du lac was shown with Väntan (Peter Nestler, 1985) and Le 6 juin d l'aube (Jean Grémillon, 1946).
  • December 20, 2018, Filmmuseum München, SanktJakobs Platz 1, 80331 München: Gens du lac was shown with The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953).

The screenings illustrate the range of Straub's work, both with and without Huillet. The war (Le 6 juin à laube), colourful musical numbers (The Band Wagon) and unjust working conditions for miners (Väntan). In their own way, all three films are acts of resistance. So is the cinema of Huillet and Straub. Films powered by vitality. The longest shot in Gens du lac is the last one. For over five minutes, the camera is statically fixed on a small headland with green trees, and a handful of moored sailboats are bobbing. The lake takes up half of the frame, the headland and the hillside behind it are at the centre of the frame, and the greyish sky is at the top. The camera suddenly pans 180 degrees. Lake Geneva seems almost endless. The camera quickly pans back towards the figurative landscape as if it saw something it didn't dare to see. The camera pans further past the headland, briefly drawing attention to a construction site by the shore before the film ends by fading to white.”

Viktor Retort1

  • 1Viktor Retoft, “Gens du lac,” Balthazar, 2023.
UPDATED ON 10.01.2024
IMDB: tt8166860