Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Mathieu Amalric
Stars: Mathieu Amalric, Stephanie Cleau, Lea Drucker.
Based on a novella written by the prolific crime writer Georges Simenon, creator of Maigret, this erotic psychological thriller depicts the aftermath of a torrid love affair gone wrong. It deals with themes of passion, obsession, betrayal, lust, memory, recollections, and explores how different people can recall events differently.
Successful businessman Julien Gahyde (played by Mathieu Amalric, from The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, etc) is married, but he has an affair with Esther (Stephanie Cleau, from Park Benches), the wife of a local pharmacist. Esther is an old school friend of Julien’s, but they lost touch for quite some time. When they reconnect, almost by accident, their passion is reignited and they conduct an illicit affair. Much of the film unfolds in a series of extended flashback sequences as Julien is questioned by the police over two deaths.
But Amalric, who also adapted the screenplay along with co-star Cleau, takes a more oblique approach to the material and he provides no easy answers as to the nature of the crime committed or indeed who is guilty. Probably best known for playing the villain in the disappointing Bond film Quantum Of Solace, Amalric takes over the directorial reins for this film. But he adopts a rather unconventional approach to the material that is disorienting and unsettling, letting the film unfold in a fractured narrative.
Cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne works in close up at times, which becomes oppressive, but he also employs some unusual compositions that add to the unsettling nature of the material. Francois Gedigier’s editing also enhances the ambiguous mood and tone, as does Gregoire Hetzel’s ominous piano driven score. Amalric also uses plenty of symbolism throughout the film – drops of blood, blue and red colours, even bees – which adds to the opaque nature of the drama and the motivations of the two central characters.
The film runs for only 75 minutes, but even so it’s languid pace and Amalric’s unusual directorial choices will frustrate many who prefer their crime dramas more clean cut and wrapped up in satisfactory fashion.