Wednesday, January 26, 2011

À l'intérieur

Another notch in the gun for watching films from the so-called New French Extremity, and this one is a keeper, though that's kind of a dubious, guilt-inducing admission. Inside (À l'intérieur in French), made by a tag-team directing duo (similar to the Wachowski brothers) is not only cringe-inducing because of the subject matter, but severely creepy and scary... moreso than most any film I've seen recently apart from Martyrs, another film associated with the NFE.

The New French Extremity (not so new anymore) is a sort of 'trend' mock-echoing the French New Wave cinema of the middle 20th century. Recent French and French-speaking directors (there are some Belgian and Canadian films that fall under the envelope) have been pushing the envelope in regards to subject matter and depiction, and usually pushing audience hot button when they go too far with sex and/or violence. Although no genre is necessarily excluded from the NFE, horror films and dark dramas tend to dominate.

Viewers attracted to these films not only find directors pushing into directions no Hollywood (or even most independent) filmmaker would go, but they contain a sensibility (how very Frahnch) in how the narratives are developed that is startling and refreshing at its best, confusing or pretentious at its worst.... just like the New Wave back in the 50s. NFE films tend to be low-budget, small cast affairs, but usually shot really well or if shot badly... at least done so with intent. The stories on paper read like hundreds of other films, common plots done to death. In the horror films I gravitate to, abduction of a man/woman/couple by a band of subhumans is a frequent script. BUT. There is often a bleak, nihilistic, or dramatic approach that sets these films apart. Not plot twists so much, as directions taken that skew genre conventions. What 'good' filmmaking should be all about. Inside is a perfect example.

Inside is 'basically' about a pregnant girl who is the victim of a home invasion. And the invader wants her baby. Straight out of her womb.

Though the topic tragically comes into the headlines in real life sometimes, this is a violation that most filmmakers won't touch... or at least won't make the fulcrum of their film. Even if they DID make a movie about this (and a USA remake of Inside IS rumored now) nothing I have ever seen in American cinema makes me think it would be handled nearly as (excruciatingly) well. The fact that I have kids myself never even entered my mind while I was watching this. What the filmmakers did so well, was highlight the incredible vulnerability that not only the child has, but that the mother feels. And the portrayal didn't make her particularly weak or incapable of looking to her own defense. Beatrice Dalle, the interloper actress, gets my vote as perhaps the creepiest, most believable psycho-lady in years, maybe forever. My understanding from the extras on the DVD, is that the writer/directors did NOT have Beatrice's character defined so specifically, but Beatrice brought a bunch of ideas and they let her run with it. And she is a tour de force.

And wherever you might be afraid a movie like this might go... this one goes there. So many times with horror movies... or any film with shocking content promised... expectations just can't be met. This is one of those movies where its as bad or worse than you imagine. And that isn't just owing to the violence (which is extreme, borderline exaggerated) but the choices made... lighting, sound, music, all of it. Everything about the film is focused like a laser on wringing the most tension out of the plot.

And it never feels forced, at least not to me. There is a reason for everything. All plot developments follow right along. Ever wonder why no one thinks to call the cops in these movies? She does call them. They even believe her. They even send cops up to her door to check on her. They even figure out someone is in there with her. The movie is short, with no footage wasted for extraneous development. There IS character development, particularly with Allyson Paradis' character, the pregnant girl. She is the survivor of a car accident that killed her husband. She is alone and depressed, and not sure how she can be a mother to the child. She is played as a woman who has run out of tears, but not a simple filmic emo stereotype, and her quiet masks her real feelings for the baby to everyone around her. She doesn't 'say' any of this. There's no exposition really.

Like a lot of the films I discuss in this blog, this one is difficult to recommend. It is a really good film of its type. Hell, even the crappier films of the NFE that I've watched are at least interesting (I'm looking at you High Tension). The tears and difficulty in dealing with this subject matter were readily apparent behind the scenes. It isn't awful in the same sense Irreversible is because despite the horrific topic, forced caesarian abductions are not common. They aren't a tragedy played out every day like rape is. And weirdly, there IS a scintilla of sympathy on tap for the invader-lady in Inside. The fact that this film can be as intense and awful as it is, and still manage that, is probably the highest praise I can give it.

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