Civeyrac moved to making films in Digital Video in 1999, with Les Solitaires, a small, almost theatrical chamber piece that was well suited to the medium, making the use of one main location and a handful of actors. The film takes place in a small Parisian apartment that Pierre (Jean-Claude Montheil) hasn’t left since the death of his wife Madeleine (Mireille Roussel). Wallowing in his solitary misery, without even a phone in the apartment, Pierre is unable to get thoughts of his wife out of his head, seeing her in his restless dreams, where he contemplates suicide in order to rejoin her.
His friend Alice (Lucia Sanchez) has feelings for Pierre and tries to help out and bring him back to normal life, but he is not very responsive or appreciative, constantly longing to be alone in the dark of his room, waiting for the next ghostly visitation of his wife. When his brother Baptiste (Philippe Garziano) arrives to stay while he attends an interview, he finds a similarly unwelcoming reception. In reality however, Philippe’s wife Eva (Margot Abascal) has left him. Although they have never been close as brothers and each have their own way of dealing with their loneliness – Pierre locking himself away, Philippe trying to pick up women – their common predicament, and the presence of Alice, brings them closer together.
Such contradictions abound in Les Solitaires, in the storyline, in the characters and in the method in which the film is made. Taking place largely in a single room, the dialogues and walk-on appearances of the characters take on a very theatrical aspect, the script very straightforward and self-explanatory – often quite literally, since Philippe’s wife Eva even has a manner of explaining her situation and feelings to herself in a mirror. The unnaturalness of the situation is of course further heightened by the ghostly presence of Pierre’s dead wife from time to time. Yet everything about the way the film is made – a straightforward dramatic piece, shot on Digital Video, often in close-up, in an almost permanently darkened room using natural light – is very naturalistic. It’s somewhere in between the levels of physicality – as when Pierre and Philippe wrestle naked together – and the unearthly presence of the dead, that the heart of the film lies, as a mediation on the very real yet intangible feelings of grief and loneliness that lie within a person (the title would seem to refer to all of the characters in the film) which cannot be reached or shared.