34-year-old Raphaël Neal has largely been known as a photographer and part-time actor in films like Sophia Coppola’s Maria Antoinette. Now the Frenchman has directed his first feature film and if he continues along this path he has found a new career.
Damien (Martin Loizillon) and Pierre (Pierre Moure) are two high school students from wealthy families. A few weeks from attaining their diploma they decide together to murder someone. The two see it as a game to have fun with. Kill someone they don’t know for no reason. They end up killing a random woman they see on the street one day. They seem to have done everything perfectly until a female passerby named Zoé (Julie-Marie Parmentier) notices them.
In the weeks that follow the murder Damien and Pierre have to live with what they have done. Damien spends his time being amused by the police investigation into the murder that turns up precious little. The police do not seem to be able to get a grip on this murder without a motive. On the other hand, as time passes Pierre gets more and more anxious about getting caught. To divert their attention the two begin to look back into their family histories and their grandparents’ involvement with concentration camps and the Eichmann trial. They begin to see the similarities between the murder they committed and this history.
Zoé, an optician who lives with her boyfriend, also follows the investigation into the murder. She is interested as she believes that she holds the key to solving it. The fact that she feels so involved in the murder and is interested in the two teenage boys really intrigues the young woman. The killing seems to have awoken some desires within her and rescued her from the dull routine of her daily life.
After getting money via crowd-funding to bring to the large screen his adaptation of the novel by Leslie Kaplan, director and co-screenwriter Raphaël Neal’s debut film takes a good long look at murder and the people involved in it. Murder usually has reasons, roots, consequences, and as much as we would like to deny it, its allure. The issues of violence and evil are explored and the idea that they can be committed by the least likely of people.
The idea of the “perfect” murder has intrigued filmmakers and filmgoers alike over the years. A twist on that in this film is the cat and mouse game that arises between the two who commit the crime and the one witness. Neal has gone for a rather restrained approach to everything in the film. I couldn’t help but think that the tension that there was could have gone up ten-fold if he would have amped things up a little. What he does do well is control the pace of the unfolding of the story allowing it to feel like a small and personal film. For this reason and the fact that he bravely tackles a tricky subject that many would not touch with a ten foot pole.
There are a few little niggling things that could have been done better with the film. Number one is the fact that money was scarce was obvious. The quality of the picture suffers at time and yet Neal also demonstrates his good eye in different scenes which are totally on point. Also at times the dialogue was a little too cheesy.
Another layer of the film arises from the ambiguous relationship between Damien and Pierre. Is it a homosexual relationship? Things are left rather ambiguous though the two do spend all of their time together. You do get the feeling that Damien, the dominant member of the duo, wants to “own” Pierre by totally attempting to control his every move and thought. He gets jealous whenever Pierre even speaks to girls. The two young actors that play Damien and Pierre are quite good. Loizillon as Damien is deliciously evil and yet not too over the top. Moure portrays the fragility of Pierre perfectly.