Friday, September 26, 2014

Chimères – review

Director: Olivier Beguin

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that work the best, a film doesn’t have to be terribly original to be a powerful piece of cinema. Having said that, this film might have been simple on the surface but there was a doubt sown through the watcher's mind that made it intriguing also.

Chimères is a Swiss film that carves out a nice little niche for itself as a strong film in the genre and is one that demands attention.

It begins at sunrise, an event met by professional photographer Alex (Yannick Rosset) and his partner Livia (Jasna Kohoutova). He suggests that sunrises are a female thing. They are on their way to Romania for a holiday, she is Romanian by birth. The opening scenes flick back and forward, between the holiday and Alex not long after, bruised and battered. It is winter in Romania and the couple come across as very much in love. He takes his camera – despite the fact he isn’t meant to be working.

newspaper article
They get a little drunk and leave a restaurant. Suddenly he realises he doesn’t have his camera with him and heads back for it, straight into the path of a car… He is rushed to hospital and has to have a blood transfusion. When back home he doesn’t feel right (beyond the fact that he is physically battered). He unpacks some photography gear wrapped in Romanian newspapers and notices an article – he can translate contaminated blood but has to have Livia translate the main text. The article has a picture of a vampire with it.

what's in the mirror?
He starts seeing things in the mirror – his eyes shine and then he sees blackened veins and fangs. He takes photos of these physical manifestations, which clearly he sees in the pictures but Livia can’t seem to see what he sees. He starts avoiding sunlight but we don’t see that it has any kind of an effect when he holds his arm in it. It is round this that the film does brilliantly. We spend it in a flux, is what is happening real or in his head? We are left to puzzle that through and it is this doubt that worked so well.

what would you do for love?
Of course there are pure hallucinations. When he sees himself rip a chunk out of Livia’s neck or when he exits a shower and his reflection is slick with blood. In some respects this is old hat – we’ve seen vampire films offer projections of desire either as daydreams or in mirrors. However the film takes it that stage further by having Livia fall into the maelstrom. Is she sharing his psychosis or is she accepting the changes in a man she loves and enabling his needs? The undertone of infection through blood transfusion and that infecting those the victim loves, be it physically or psychologically, is interesting also.

desire in the mirror
It is the two leads that make the film. They both seem very natural and have a large quota of chemistry - Rosset reminds me a lot of Jason Carter in looks and mannerisms and that's no bad thing either. I should also mention scream queen Catriona MacColl (City of the Living Dead) who plays Alex’s mother. The film is very much orientated towards the relationship of the leads, however, and it is testament to them that they carry that so well. The film doesn’t skimp on gore when it needs it and it leaves you thinking. The photography is lovely, the soundtrack unobtrusive.

This deserves 7.5 out of 10 and a wide audience.

The imdb page is here.

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