To preserve this sincerity, Wittock then avoids introspection and limits character development to Jeanne’s ability to create scale mechanical designs in her bedroom. Fear, perhaps, that if we get to know her more deeply, we might wonder if there is trauma that triggers an illusion. Likewise, the dynamics of the city are also barely drawn – including a group of kids who laugh at Jeanne and seem to visit the park every day.
Besides Merlant’s performance, this inter-material relationship between flesh and metal is made haunting by the work of cinematographer Thomas Buelens in scenes where Jeanne rides Jumbo or approaches her flat center (the thing closest to a face ). As she rides or watches her massive lover, she basks in the radiant patterns of his moving lights. This striking, almost hypnotic imagery evokes an encounter between an EarthLink and a spaceship. Jumbo has personality, and it’s a major feat accomplished entirely through the visual language of the film.
These dazzling bonding moments have more impact than the dreamlike sequence showing a half-naked Jeanne in a white space swallowed by a dark liquid (machine lubricant) similar to the feeding scenes of “Under the Skin”. Because the validity of their union is never in doubt in Jeanne’s eyes, “Jumbo” functions as a simple allegory of the notion that love is love. If a great entertainment machine can awaken such shameless affection from her, then all other consensual human relations should surely be considered orthodox.
In the film’s final throes, the filmmaker mysteriously changes the tone from seductive drama to cheeky comedy. Additionally, the story resolves the parental approval conflict with a supportive character who comes in as the voice of reason and results in a muddled resolution. While oddly charming, “Jumbo” behaves like love at first sight that doesn’t think about the consequences of the fiery now or the bigger picture in the long run.
Now playing in select cinemas and virtual cinemas.