Why do viewers swoon more at Cannes than at other cinemas?

Fainting, vomiting, panic attacks… Being shocked by a film from the Cannes Film Festival is commonplace. In 2021, the projection of Titanium, the chilling and ultra-violent work of Julia Ducournau had not only aroused the incomprehension of some people but above all caused several discomforts requiring the intervention of the firefighters. This phenomenon is not isolated, other films have already, during their presentation at Cannes, outraged and rushed the spectators out of the room, because of more or less severe ailments.

Since its creation in 1946, the famous international festival has often shaken its audience. And for good reason, this reference event is “a cinema of images and authors who have all the rights” entrusted to Mariannejournalist and film critic Carlos Gomez, author of the book “See Cannes and Survive” (Ed. The Gunner, 2017). And to specify: “The interest of Cannes is that we discover films there, without barriers and without limits: this gives very strong singular works and without self-censorship on the part of artists”.

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Except that the spectators are not always prepared for this level of freedom of the directors. A few examples: in 1973, Marco Ferreri struck hard with Feast, a satire of the consumer society in which the actors organize their collective suicide by overdosing on food. In 1996, during the presentation of Crash- featuring characters whose sexual fantasies are linked to terrifying car accidents – director David Cronenberg triggers nausea and disapproval from the public. Six years later, in 2002, it was the turn of Gaspar Noé, who brought together Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel in Irreversible to shock festival-goers and make some of them pass out. Even more recently, the feature film by Danish director Lars von Trier Antichrist (2009) also caused unease among the public.

“Surprise effect”

“When you arrive at the Cannes Film Festival, you generally don’t know anything about the history of films, sometimes you see a few visuals but no more. This is also what makes the charm of the event » notes Carlos Gomez. In other words, if some journalists sometimes have the opportunity to see films before the festival to better prepare themselves, most of them arrive without knowing anything about the work. “There is a real surprise effect but the surprise is sometimes too brutal. It’s as if you were walking down the street and all of a sudden, a violent road accident happened in front of your eyes., explains the journalist. This is what explains, according to the film critic, why this phenomenon is more important at the Cannes Film Festival than in so-called “classic” cinemas. In the latter, the film viewed is selected by the viewer based on opinions, reviews or trailers: content which, conversely, is difficult to obtain for productions shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

“The Grail at the exit”

The prestige and reputation of the event probably also have something to do with it. For Carlos Gomez, knowing that there is “a Holy Grail at the exit”that of the palme d’or adds additional pressure in the room. “The public is carried away and the shocks are collective” he explains. The infrastructures of the Palais des Congrès de Cannes can indeed accommodate up to 2,300 spectators, the reactions in the room can only be increased tenfold… The pride of being able to attend such an event is felt: “It’s as if being able to guess what the palme d’or might be made us more lucid beings for a moment, the atmosphere is really special” he adds.

Finally, the Cannes Film Festival is a trying event. It lasts eleven days during which the journalists chain screenings – sometimes five a day –, interviews and writing: “it’s very intense, journalists are necessarily more fragile and sensitive to films “Concludes Carlos Gomez.

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Why do viewers swoon more at Cannes than at other cinemas?