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France, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Philippe Grandrieux

Sombre is one of the most confrontational films in this year's Festival programme. The intimacy with which director Philippe Grandneux explores a chapter in the life of a roaming serial murderer is at once compelling and repellent. Grandrieux bears all the marks of a major directorial talent and, although his career in film and video extends back three decades, he has chosen this, his first feature film, to unveil his utterly unique style. Grandrieux has incorporated brief passages of experimentalism (toying with editing, distorted images and perception of time) to communicate the fractured psyche of his protagonist, the brutal strangler of women, Jean.

Sombre divided the Locarno Film Festival jury between Ihose who were morally outraged by the film and those who saw a purpose in its darkness. There have been many similar crime dramas throughout cinema his­tory, but very few have captured the pure essence of fear that permeates Sombre.

Simple in construction, Sombre introduces us to Jean midway through his torture and slaying of a name­less woman he has picked up in his travels around France in search of easy targets. His violent frenzy, sub­sequent emotional churning, voluminous alcohol con­sumption and then resumption of his spree continue in a horrifying cycle until his abduction of Claire and later her sister Christine. For a brief moment, the curtain of sadis­tic insanity parts and Jean can momentarily view his actions in the light of rationality.

See also...


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