Directed by Marina de Van.
Starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci.
Running Time: 111 minutes.
If the name Marina de Van sounds even remotely familiar, there's a good chance you've seen her very disturbing film about self-mutilation, titled IN MY SKIN, in which she also starred. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, IN MY SKIN is a notorious French film that tells the story of a young woman who becomes addicted to mutilating herself and, eventually, eating her own skin. It's part Psychological Horror, part Body Horror, and a lot better than it sounds. Not an easy movie to watch, but I'm a fan. Having said that, knowing that Marina directed and co-wrote this film really upped my level of anticipation; never mind that it stars two wonderful and gorgeous actresses, Monica Bellucci (IRREVERSIBLE) and Sophie Marceau (BRAVEHEART).
DON'T LOOK BACK is a lot of things, but for the sake of keeping it somewhat simple, let's just call it a psychological thriller, and one that I have to be very careful with while discussing it. That being said, I will be vague when describing the film so as to not include spoilers. Jeanne (Sophie Marceau) is an amnesiac who doesn't remember anything before a certain age. As she finally sets out to do some soul-searching and find out more about her past, she notices strange things happening to her body. The more she finds out about herself, the more her body changes. Even her mental state begins to suffer: a fading equilibrium and sense of direction, severe paranoia, hallucinations, and an inability to recognize those closest to her. Amongst her hallucinations are visions of Monica Bellucci's character and a little girl; neither of whom she recognizes.
I think I've said enough. I threw the bait out there, and it's just a matter of whether or not you want to take it. To say anymore about the plot wouldn't necessarily be going into spoiler territory, but it would give you an idea of what to expect, and to go into this film with expectations, story-wise, could possibly ruin some of the little pieces in the film that make up the bigger puzzle. The viewer is supposed to be just as unaware of what's going on as Marceau's character is, and with the character in the film, we too make discoveries. It sounds very pretentious, but just trust me. There's a great deal of mystery to the story, as well as a level of surrealism that I wasn't expecting.
What I can talk about, however, are some of the obvious influences, filmmaking-wise. Hitchcock, Lynch, Cronenberg, and even a director who I'm not particularly fond of, Nacho Cerda, all came to mind while watching the film. Even Brian De Palma to a certain extent (but, of course, that always goes back to Hitchcock). Yes, there are specific films from those directors (especially Lynch and Cerda) that also came to mind, but, again, that would be giving too much away. The Body Horror aspect of the film was unexpected, but not surprising. Marina de Van's IN MY SKIN dealt with the same themes of Psychological and Body Horror, as well as self-discovery, but were approached and presented differently in both films.
So, there's an emphasis on the level of secrecy in describing the film, but does that mean it's a film worth protecting? DON'T LOOK BACK is almost two-hours in length and a bit slow at times. Personally, there wasn't enough of an issue with the pacing to make me tune out, but I did occasionally lose patience with a lot of the build-up and the general lack of answers (until the end, that is). Whether or not I was satisfied with the pay-off or not is beside the point, but I will say that the journey there, for me, was somewhat worthwhile. Not a very original or re-watchable film, but beautifully-shot, great performances from both leading ladies, and an effective and haunting score. And it's only about a minute into the film before you see boobs!
Make or Break: The scene that made the movie for me took place about thirteen minutes in. Marceau's character is at home with her husband and two children, watching a home video that her husband filmed that evening while playing around with a new camera. As she's watching the footage, she notices a few strange things about it that everyone else in the room seems oblivious to: her children are looking directly at the camera while making signals with their hands, as if they're trying to communicate with someone. This scene in the film marks the beginning of Marceau's descent, if you will, and it's also quite eerie.
MVT: Bellucci was great, but the most valuable "thing" in the film, for me, was Sophie Marceau. Her character seemed to demand more of an emotional performance, and Marceau delivered. The cinematography was also great, and, as I already mentioned, so was the score and even the special effects that were used at certain points in the film, but Marceau stood out above all else.
If you like French cinema, check it out. Worth a rental. This will either be a really frustrating film or a moderately satisfying one, but I honestly can't see this film blowing anyone who's not a casual movie fan away.