Friday, April 05, 2013

Under the Sand




Directed by Francois Ozon and written by Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim, Sous le Sable (Under the Sand) is the story of a woman who deals with her husband’s sudden disappearance during a holiday as she ponders whether he’s dead or alive while trying to live her life. The film is an exploration into the world of death where a woman tries to come to terms about her husband being dead or the fact that he just chose to leave. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot, and Alexandra Stewart. Sous le Sable is a harrowing yet exhilarating film from Francois Ozon.

Death can bring a unique reaction to anyone as it is something very hard to cope with. In this film, it’s about a woman who deals with her husband’s disappearance at a beach as she is unsure if he’s dead or alive. Yet, Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling) tries to continue her life as if her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) is still alive. Even as she becomes attracted to another man named Vincent (Jacques Nolot) whom she would later have an affair with. Still, Marie is becoming more confused about her feelings as she questions herself is that is she in denial or is her husband still alive but refuses to believe it. It’s among the many things the film asks as it follows a woman searching for answers that either she already knows or is maybe asking something different.

The screenplay by Francois Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim doesn’t exactly play to conventions while maintaining this air of ambiguity. Though things start off in a simple, understated manner to showcase Marie’s life with Jean where they seem to be a happy couple. Once Jean suddenly disappears while Marie sunbathes on the beach, Marie’s life crashes down as the first act becomes her trying to find out about her husband. Yet, she abruptly returns to Paris where friends asks about Jean though she decides to move on as if he’s still alive. When Vincent enters the picture, Marie is intrigued by him where they eventually have an affair though Jean still looms in Marie’s mind. The third act is about Marie finally coming to the conclusion about her own feelings as well as facing something where it could be true or not.

Ozon’s direction is very simplistic in its imagery and presentation as it is a straightforward drama. Yet, there are moments where Ozon maintains that air of mystery throughout the film as it plays out some of the events that Marie goes through. Even as she is a woman who is just trying to keep herself and her emotions in check as she is an English professor who teaches at a Parisian university. Still, Ozon does create images that are just startling to watch while keeping this low-key to build things up as well as taking his time to play out the drama. There are also subtle moments of eroticism such as a scene where Marie is fantasizing about both Jean and Vincent fondling her body as she lies down while there’s also a beauty to the sex scene between Marie and Vincent. The film’s climax and ending is definitely ambiguous though it is more about everything Marie has been through and the eventual release about all that she’s encountered. Overall, Ozon creates a very mesmerizing and enriching drama about death and denial.

Cinematographers Jeanne Lapoirie and Antoine Heberle do amazing work with the film‘s very low-key yet hypnotic photography from the colorful scenes at the beach to the use of blue and dark lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interior and exteriors to maintain that air of death. Editor Laurence Bawedin does nice work with the film‘s editing where a lot of it is straightforward to play out the drama while there‘s some usage of jump-cuts to explore the sense of loss that Marie is dealing with. Art director Sandrine Canaux does terrific work with the look of the cabin that Marie and Jean stayed in as well as the Parisian apartment they live in.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne is wonderful for some of the clothes the characters wear including the gorgeous red dress that Marie wears. The sound work of Jean-Luc Audy is superb for the sense of atmosphere it creates in some of the scenes at the beach as well as some scenes in Paris to complement the world that Marie lives in. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is brilliant for its sense of melancholia in its mixture of low-key electronic textures with orchestral-piano arrangements to play out Marie’s sense of confusion.

The film’s ensemble cast is excellent as it features some notable performances from Alexandra Stewart as Marie’s American friend Amanda, Andree` Tainsy as Jean’s mother, Pierre Vernier as Amanda’s husband, and Jacques Nolot as the very charming Vincent who woos Marie. Bruno Cremer is fantastic as Jean as a man who is very kind though is also weary as he would pop up every once in a while to play out the sense of ambiguity. Finally, there’s Charlotte Rampling in a phenomenal performance as Marie Drillon as a woman who is dealing with the idea of loss as it’s really one that is just very understated and also engaging as it stands as one of Rampling’s finest performances.

Sous le Sable is an incredibly touching film from Francois Ozon that features a remarkable Charlotte Rampling. The film is definitely one of Ozon’s finest films in the way he explores death as well as showcasing a woman trying to come to terms with what could be true. It’s also a film that encompasses a woman’s journey into dealing with the inevitable as well as her attempts to try and run away from that truth. In the end, Sous le Sable is an extraordinary film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #32: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2013

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