L’appartement (1996) starring Bellucci, Cassel and Bohringer

I couldn’t find a better picture to resemble the dissecting, weaving, wretched plotline of this romantic thriller, but alas, there it is. The first thing that attracted me to this film was that it was an early film of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel’s. The director was unknown to me but this film was one of those highly-regarded films of the mid-nineties, a time when I was just a boy, and I was amused by cinema, but would have never sought out a film like this – I was in primary school.

So, years later, I’m given the opportunity to watch it by a friend. At first it seems a pretty standard thriller or romance, still not quite unshedding its light upon you for the first time. It looks glossy, like there is a haze over the lens that softens everything to make this film feel like it’s a dream, a beautiful, non-chalant dream filled with romanticism. As it unfolds, switching between two time periods, almost all the characters (there are three vital ones and one submissive one) are playing two different characters – now and then. To be honest, the film portrays all this so melodramatically that after the first forty-five minutes, you are hooked.

It’s been compared to Hitchcock, but I would not go so far, the haunting and heightened strings that play on the soundtrack resemble many films from the American fifties, the ideas and values are on another level too, never grounded in reality but set in the world onscreen – where characters behave the way we do – but are so full of life and intensity, of power and relevance, that sitting in the theatre we are merely watching to enjoy the sights before us – from that, we can take from it whatever we like. The characters are so attractive that we can replace them with anyone we know in the real world and play Barbie and Ken for Sandra and Derrick. It’s transformation, it’s translucent characters on screen, and we can represent them as ourselves.

The production never goes out of its way to pretend life is bigger then what it is. What is pleasant is that the story primarily takes place only in apartments, cafes and phonebooths. It’s a sincere film that lends itself to you. There are no fancy camera moves that are there to puzzle you although the film itself is a puzzle. It’s almost as if this film portrays what the theatre would become too complex with. It’s portrays complexity simply with a camera, and also allows time and space to travel the way a play could not.

There are some people who despise films that disguise themselves with complexity, damning the writer – claiming they chose the answer and wrote the script with questions to finally unfold everything neatly at the end – others enjoy the ride. I can’t comment on this in regards to this film. Many people make that comment about a whodunnit or murder mystery which this film is not. It’s purely a love story and the ideas and themes prevail over any sort of web of intrigue surrounding the story.

The film is dramatic, but tastefully done, it’s thrilling and sensational and its about love.  You don’t quite know where the film is going in the first ten minutes, but you gather its complex, and as it switches to the past things only become more enticing. The past and present in our minds is a complex thought. How can you untangle the complex thoughts that go through our minds when you think of someone you really love?


About the anonymous projectionist

just wasting time watching movies, reading movies, staring at lenses and playing around with movie cameras
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