‘She Is Conann’ Review — An Ouroboros Of Cruelty

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4 min readMar 20, 2024

Bertrand Mandico is quickly establishing himself as one of the goopiest, goriest, and horniest French fringe genre filmmakers of the moment, and his newest film She Is Conann strays not from that path. In a sprightly retelling of the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, an old woman (Françoise Brion) awakes in a medical facility and is escorted through the afterlife by Rainer (Elina Löwensohn), a hellhound shutterbug donning a diamond-monogrammed leather jacket. He leads the unknown woman to a throne of dizzying heights where a woman identical to her sits and begins to tell her the life story of herself, of Conann the Barbarian (Claire Duburcq, Christa Théret, Sandra Parfait, Agata Buzek, Nathalie Richard, & Françoise Brion). Through the lens of Bertrand Mandico’s clear love for the works of ’80s Italian horror and sexploitation of the ’70s, there couldn’t be a more perfect way to navigate the gruesome nature of Conann’s visceral fictional life.

Conann chronicles the various stages of her life in order, with each new approach and wave of thought represented by a different actor portraying Conann in her life. Each iteration is faithfully accompanied by Rainer, furiously egging Conann on to give into her primal urges and kill without mercy or discrimination in between flashy snaps of his Instamatic camera. But remorse accumulates tenfold within Conann surrounding the death of Sanja (Julia Riedler) as each generation of the titular barbarian draws closer to Rainer’s idealized version of what it means to be a true warrior.

The first obstacle Conann faces at 15 years old is the death of her mother at the hands of traveling barbarians, the hands of which eventually shape who Conann would become. Burgeoning themes of selfishness and survival begin to seep into the young orphan’s worldview like a hazy stew, desperate for direction and connection. The threads of these themes continue as Conann’s evolution manifests, each renewal taking place once every ten years. But don’t let the above condition you into expecting a lucid adaptation of Howard’s famous character; Mandico’s method of storytelling is as groggy and ragged as the nature of the late Conann’s reigning mental state as the events of her life are retold to her. Although the film tackles the story chronologically, the logical fashion of doing so is artfully tossed out of the window.

Part of the notion of Conann’s story is embracing a psychedelic frame for the otherworldly proceedings of Mandico’s tale. Gigantic monstrous creatures lurk in the shadows and fountains of blood from fresh victims drench public squares, replacing their fresh liquids with the water from its public fountains in a hedonistic display of aggressive sensuality that can only fit in the DIY settings of Anna Le Mouël’s timeless production design. But even in the underlying animalistic violent drive of Conann’s storied life, there is a development of poise and rationality that evolves as her life changes. Journeys through time hardly change her as a person as Rainer reunites to evaluate Conann’s development. As much as Rainer pushes Conann to be the center of the story, he seems to be the central character in practice instead. Rainer’s obsession with capturing as much as he can of the lives of Conann (quite literally with his camera) intersects with us as the inquisitive audience, making us privy to her proudest achievements and lowest moments.

It’s the way Mandico places his audience squarely next to Conann that makes this so compelling and memorable, even though its sequences can feel so fleeting in the moment. But its momentary snapshots of the unreal life of a barbarian make it much less listless than it sounds; the combination of all the unbelievable events in Conann’s time on earth makes us feel like we’re remembering a long-lost history of our not-so-distant pasts ourselves. She Is Conann is a brutal ouroboros of human judgment in a world that feels more forewarningly preternatural than logical. It’s what we do in that moment of cosmic suggestion that helps guide us towards the next stage in our lives but you must be willing to kill your past self to get there.

She Is Conann is currently playing in select theaters courtesy of Altered Innocence.

Thank you for reading!
This article was originally published March 8th, 2024 on Geek Vibes Nation.

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