Emmanuelle Béart, Rufus Sewell, Julie Dreyfus / Fiction / English, Thai
A hallucinatory jungle horror, from the director of Calvaire (EIFF 2004).
An ambitious and singularly twisty follow-up to his breakthrough critical hit Calvaire (EIFF 2004), Vinyan sees Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz essay a sort of Apocalypse Don't Look Now. Rufus Sewell and Emmanuelle Béart play Paul and Jeanne, a European couple who have lost their son to the 2004 tsunami during a holiday in Thailand. Without absolute confirmation of his death, the couple has been unable to leave the country; they have become de facto expats, existing in an increasingly hopeless limbo. Then, at a charity event, they see a campaign video on orphans living in poverty in the Burmese jungle. Jeanne is convinced that she glimpses her son, who, she concludes, must have been kidnapped by child-traffickers and taken to Burma. She has to go and get him back. If Paul doesn't accompany her, she'll go alone… Vinyan shifts thereafter from marital drama through jungle adventure thriller into wild, hallucinatory horror. Each level can be read as viscerally real, or as a phase of Jeanne's grief: the deepening of her delusion, and the widening of the chasm between her manic hope and Paul's sad resignation. Paul's dilemma is the film's unstable centre, and the source of its psychological creepiness. If he denies the far-fetched possibility of his son's survival, he will lose his wife. If he placates her by accepting her (probable) fantasy, he must undertake a harebrained quest and put both of their lives at risk. You almost see him running over his wedding vows, and revisiting his early sense of awe at having wed someone so, well, Emmanuel Béart-esque… Having already lost a son, is Paul going to let his wife go too? Or is it a better bet to let unreason overwhelm the day-to-day, and subsume his worries in her crazed life-or-death escapade? Rufus Sewell's skilled performance comes into its own at these points of risk and indecision, and makes the extremity of Paul's decision credible; he's an ordinary chap somehow miscast in the role of an action hero, and his groping for confidence and certainty is movingly played. Meanwhile, the characters' murky mental condition is effectively mirrored in visual and sound design so heavy, drippy and verdant that you really feel you're breathing soupy tropical air. It's this immersive physical and emotional atmosphere that allows Vinyan to take us as far as it ultimately does into the unknown and the unimagined.
#1 / Tuesday 23 June, 2009 / 00:59 GMTFor nutshell reviews, it would be hard to beat the "Apocalypse Don't Look Now" tag coined above. The dearth of narrative is offset by some great camera shots (Emmanuelle Beart almost chews the the reels up at her sultry, moody, pouting best) which make good use of the exotic scenery, and an atmospheric score that helps keep things ticking along nicely towards the remote Burmese rainforest 'ASBO theme park' finale. A welcoming tribe of feral sproglets dipped in chocolate and flour underline the moral of the tale - if you live on a housing estate anywhere near Cadbury's or Mother's Pride factories, beware 8-year olds with bamboo canes. Kept me engaged and curious throughout, although the limited plot is really quite, well, silly. 7/10.
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