Airplane whooshing fills the ears. The plane takes him higher and higher. He playfully mimics the engine’s revving to mask his nerves. High fives are exchanged all throughout the cabin. “Bail out!” the pilot says. He watches his buddy jump. He knows it is almost his turn when adrenaline replaces every ounce of fear left in his body. He’s strapped to a professional who counts down from “trois,” and without a chance to think, Matteo is swept off the edge of the plane into a free fall. He is punching and flailing as the sky becomes his breakdancing floor. “I really let all the hate and all the anger go,” he says, “All of it! So I’d be free.”
Alive! or Vivant! spends a series of days on a skydiving site in France, where five men prepare for one of the biggest jumps of their lives. They all have at least one thing in common: they are seropositive.
The scope of scene to scene looks like a combination of clips that are chronological but are almost randomly aligned. These clips are concerned with the small, casual interactions between the main men, as well as their skydiving instructors. On a chilly night during their first group conversation, the guys discuss how they felt when they opened their HIV test results. Since there is no soundtrack, the only other commentators are the crickets that chirp in between each breath. The air is heavy, but there is a sense of mutual support that acts as an invisible safety net. They may all tell their stories safely. As the days pass and the men become more comfortable around each other, the awkward pauses shorten, they lose their formalities, and they reassert their normal tendencies.
With a chuckle, a shrug, or a flinch, a personality is showcased. Eric, bold and poised, could come off as a VIP in any given context, especially when he smolders through his nifty sunglasses. Vincent remains quiet in a group discussion until he has something interesting and thoughtful to contribute. Despite being the oldest, Pascal’s immaturity shines like his balding head does in the sun. As much as his jovial energy radiates, so does his jealousy, as well as his tendency to egg on Matteo’s lack of cooperation. “The class troublemaker!” Pascal chuckles wholeheartedly, “You’re crazy!”
Just by sharing the commonality of having HIV, the men quickly regain a sense of belonging within themselves through each other. Halfway through the film, Eric admits that this is the first time he has taken his medications in public. On this skydiving site, they don’t have to hide their disease. By talking through their experiences with each other, you can see them grow after each layer of guilt and grief that they shed.
OVID.tv’s Alive! Offers Humanity And Hope To A Once Taboo Disease.
Taking the leap is nothing but peaking adrenaline and following procedure. This is their chance to feel alive again.
Depending on the viewer’s take, the climax could either be the jumps or the guys’ tough conversations. The footage selected for inclusion in the film is otherwise unedited, remaining true to the characters of the five main men, who are not there to become stars. Rather, they are there to experience something new and exhilarating. They are there to win back the power that HIV once took from them. They are not our new favorite celebrity/hero; they are the storytellers in their own rights, and the documentary is their platform through which they show viewers that their life does not stop at their disease. These lads are a likeable bunch, and some that this reviewer wouldn’t mind adopting as cool uncles.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the audience for Alive! is relatively narrow. Unlike this writer and others who appreciate an unhurried plot and laid-back humor, the format of piecing together clips of raw conversation – which is the meat of the film—without cinematic sound or visual effects will likely require more attention than the average viewer would want to muster. If you prefer a dense plot and require intense character development, this might not be the film for you.
If skydiving is on your bucket list, and especially if the challenges to seropositive living are of keen interest to you, add Alive! to your watch list.
Run time: 80 minutes
Director/Writer: Vincent Boujon