“The Wild Boys” (“Les garçons sauvages”)
A Surreal Tale of Gender Warfare
“The Wild Boys” almost defies categorization; it is a gender-bending work of intoxicating expressionism.The film follows five adolescent boys from respectable families, who love the occult and mainly a demon apparition named ‘Trevor’ that inspires them to commit savage, sexually motivated crimes. One day, during a performance of Macbeth, put on for their teacher, things take a turn for the worse when one of the scenes ends up becoming a collective rape; resulting in the teacher’s death. However, instead of being yet another problematic, and gratuitous rape scene, these five boys are all played by young female actors (Vimala Pons, Pauline Lorillard, Diane Rouxel, Anaël Snoek and Mathilde Warnier). Director Bertrand Mandico is fascinated by the role gender plays in defining sexual violence.
Despite their best efforts to avoid persecution, the boys are found guilty of murder, but instead of being sent to reform school, their parents press-gang them into the care of a Dutch sea-captain (Sam Louwyck), who promises to rid them their wild tendencies. He takes them onboard his dilapidated sailboat and on a mission to a forbidden island. “This island is populated by a veritable bouquet of phallic flora and fauna whose inviting plant life and sperm like sap initially sate the boys’ uncontrollable appetites.”
The erotic universe blossoms into an abstract, almost surreal universe. Cinematographer, Pascale Granel, who uses textured black-and-white photography and dreamlike color sequences gives the film its rich mysteriousness and poetic beauty and emphasizes the bizarreness of this story and creates a psychedelic atmosphere that succeeds in leaving the audience feeling carried.
At first, the island seems like a paradise, but time pass the boys slowly undergo a gender metamorphosis, with their penises falling off and breasts growing on their chests. Mandico seems to be raising the question of what might happen if children weren’t straitjacketed into gender roles in early adolescence, showing how gender, as a social c onstruct, enforces the concept of male entitlement.
I see “The Wild Boys” as a heady, sexually charged take on “Lord of the Flies” that energetically skewers any notion of the gender binary. It is so much more than a film; it is a sensory cinematic experience with a plot follows that a group of lusty teenage boys (played by female actors) who are conscripted to nautical behavioral therapy on an island after the brutal rape of their teacher. The rough sea captain (Sam Louwyck) who has a special method for taming their unchecked testosterone.
They island is filled with sensual delights and, partaking of the island’s pleasures, the boys’ bodies start to transform and this sends them into a terror before they eventually embrace their new forms.
“The Wild Boys” dares to go into the in-between, the liminal spaces where bodies simply are, existing in any form they take, rather than relegated into social categories.