CHAPTER ONE: We meet the characters and set up the beginning of a mysterious infection, with the first symptoms

 

The story starts with a descent into Paris while the captions inform us that something is carried on the backs of prevailing wings, something that is about to bring change.

After swooping through Paris and down to The Marais neighborhood, we come to a street level view of a tree and an upper-class building beside it. We shift into the perspective of a mysterious organism and see the tree and then the building, and eventually an office inside the building, as this organism multiplies and colonizes the tree and the office in the building.

This is where we meet our first character – the building pudgy, Elvis infatuated manager. He is happily humming his favorite Elvis tune, when his least favorite tenant, the rude and annoying Mathieu drops by to complain about his wet ceiling. After a brief and exhausting argument, Leroy reluctantly heads to check the apartment below to see what’s causing the flooding. We meet Cecile, the building’s oldest tenant whose family once owned the entire street – or so she tells. Cecile is a fading and frail old woman, furiously hanging on to a past no longer present. She tries to maintain appearances, but her clumped mascara and dusty clothes betray a grim reality. Leroy discovers that Madamme Cecile has been putting garbage in the sync and has clogged it, causing water to drop onto the apartment below. We stay with Cecile over a few days, getting snapshots of her routine, as the mysterious organism colonizes her space as well. We are brought back to reality when Cecile’s cleaner arrives. But it is a new person, since the previous cleaner is about to give birth. At first, Cecile is indignant and untrusting of Shada, even going as far as to call Leroy and demand her original cleaner. But she can’t talk to him – there is noise coming from the street below.

We descend to the teenagers hanging out under her window, blasting music. Among them is Marie-Elise, a goth in the skin of a BMX-er. As they casually chat about the things they hate, Marie-Elise departs, leaving her boyfriend confused and pining after her.

At home, Marie-Elise has an argument with her moody father whose is upset Marie-Elise missed her weekly, scheduled phone conversation with her mother, Sylvie. It is clear Marie-Elise resents her mother who left them years ago to start a new family. They eat dinner in silence and resentment.

Meanwhile Mathieu wraps his arms and head with strips of leather and performs his daily Jewish prayer. His next daily ritual is a strong cup of coffee at the nearby café, where he spends time with Agnes, an elegant and disinterested woman he admires.

Marie-Elise retreats to her room and listens to music. We switch into the perspective of the mysterious organism, while they colonize her room. We see an image of a once happy and intact family, now nothing but a memory masquerading as an old photograph.

Marie-Elise leaves her apartment, ignoring her father. In the hallway, she comes across a ball. It has rolled out from one of the apartments. She picks it up – unknowingly transferring the mysterious organism onto it – and rolls it back to Alou, a little boy curiously peeking out from the open doors of a well-maintained, elegant home full of Senegaleese art.

Alou is called back inside and sternly asked to close the door. Mamadou, his dapper father is getting a shave while his mother, Bineta, is anxiously getting ready for a night out at the German Ambassador’s house. They ask Alou to behave while they are gone and be good to his nanny. He wishes he could come with them, but they are too busy for him.

We come to a cozy synagogue, where Mathieu, the youngest member of a gathering of religious Jewish males, is mid-prayer. He is called to the podium to read from the daily passage – a great honour.

At night, we find Mathieu at a music concert, which he takes in with just as much reverence. But something bothers him. His throat is dry and he coughs. Everyone looks at him.

We move over to Shada. She is walking toward the Bastille market, but in her mind, she is back in Algeria, plagued by memories. When she reaches her husband’s olive and spice stall at the market, she hands him an envelope with an Arabic magazine – it just arrived this morning. The husband is teased by the fellow market sellers, asking when he is going to get a new wife. Through their jokes we find out Shada is unable to have children. In the end it is Shada who makes fun of the men and the husband, then walks away.

In her apartment, Cecile is not feeling well. Her throat is dry, she is thirsty and she drops her bottle of water. Shada comes to help her up and clean the mess.

Somewhere in a dank alley-way, Marie-Elise is making out with her boyfriend. But she is not there. Something is bothering her. She is immeasurably thirsty. She runs home and chugs down some wine – but it makes no difference. She drinks from the tap. And then, something strange happens. A déjà vu. A bird lands on the window-sill and it happens again – but was it a memory of a similar moment once experienced?

Mathieu is walking with a fellow hipster, having a friendly argument. And then it happens to him to – a moment repeats. A déjà vu, a memory, a glitch in his mind? Mathieu asks his friend if he experienced this doubled moment it time as well, but the friend thinks Mathieu must simply be high.

Cecile is sitting by her window, numb. She is staring at a balcony across the street, where a young woman is watering plants and another one is eating candy. Suddenly, a moment repeats for her as well, but Cecile is unable to process it. She closes the curtain and slumps in her chair. Shada wonders if she has family to call who would come to her side. But Cecile is unresponsive. Shada calls the ambulance.

As Cecile is being examined by the paramedics, we move into her iris and realize she is stuck in a memory she is experiencing. In her mind, she is a young woman, driving carefree in an open-top car. The young woman turns into a skeleton with gray hair, blowing in the wind.

We come to Alou. He is taking a bath, enjoying the water. He notices his reflection in the mirror and sees colors. He is full of color! He is calm and open to this. The caption tells us: Do not be afraid.