Sunday, 1 August 2010


“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” - Thomas Campbell

Being Movie Monday today, I shall once again review a film that we watched recently. This was a curious film that came highly recommended by a friend of ours and which starred that darling of French cinemagoers, Charlotte Rampling. She was born in Sturmer, England, in 1946. The daughter of a British Colonel who became a NATO commander and a painter, she was educated at Jeanne d’Arc Académie pour Jeunes Filles in Versailles, France and at the exclusive St. Hilda’s school in Bushley, England. She was a model before entering films in 1965. Since then she has had numerous film roles in British and American films, but especially so in Continental ones. In 1995 she was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.

The film was François Ozon’s 2000 “Sous Le Sable” (Under the Sand). It is an intense, but slowly moving film, building up to a crescendo little by little like a Rossini overture. Rampling plays Marie, an English literature lecturer in a Paris university, who is seemingly happily married to Jean (Bruno Cremer) for 25 years. They have no children. They begin their usual summer vacations in the southwest of France and soon after they arrive there they decide to go to the beach. Jean leaves Marie sunbathing on the beach and goes to swim in the sea. When Marie suddenly looks at the time and realizes how long her husband is gone she looks for him, but she cannot find Jean. Has he committed suicide? Drowned? Left her? With no clue and no body to mourn over, Marie reports the disappearance to the police but continues her life, acting as though her husband were still alive. As the weeks pass, her friends try to get her to snap out of her idée fixe and even introduce Vincent (Jacques Nolot) to her who is an eligible bachelor.

This film is not for those who desire action and car chases, cops and robbers or superhero stunts. It is a quiet meditative study on a woman’s fragile psychological state following a crisis in her life. Rampling gives a magnificent performance mostly acting with her facial expressions, her gestures, her body language. What remains unsaid in the fim, or what is hinted at is important for us as we are then able to decide what actually has happened on the beach. Rampling is ably supported by the rest of the small cast. She manages to convey Marie’s initial bafflement and subsequent denial believably and with conviction. As she begins to see Vincent her awakening erotic fantasies and guilt begin to intrude into her coping mechanisms and she comes close to becoming mentally unstable.

The confrontation with Suzanne, Jean’s elderly mother (played wonderfully by veteran actress Andrée Tainsy) helps Marie to sort out her life and accept Jean’s disappearance – or does she? The mysterious last scene of the movie back at the beach where Jean disappeared is one that leaves the viewer of the film puzzled, but also free to choose the ending that he/she desires. The strange man on the beach could be there or he could not. He could be anyone: Jean, Vincent, the Lifeguard or even a stranger. Marie’s frenetic but erratic run towards the man is puzzling as she seems to run past him in the end, or does she?

This is a film that will appeal to those who wish to watch an intellectually stimulating film and who enjoy good performances. It is one that contains some nudity and sex scenes (in true French cinema style…), however, these were not offensive, but rather tastefully shown and certainly part of the story, highlighting Marie’s shifting frames of reference. The movie is available on DVD and I fortuitously found it in the sale bin of our video store for a paltry price.