FNC 2013: ‘L’amour est un crime parfait’ is a chilling and clever thriller

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L’amour est un crime parfait (Love is the Perfect Crime)

Written and directed by Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu

France/Switzerland, 2013

Set in the icy backdrop of the Swiss Alps, L’amour est un crime parfait (Love is the Perfect Crime) is a dark thriller that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. With a rich emphasis on the link between man, literature, and landscape, the film takes its audience for a chilling ride.

Marc, played brilliantly by Mathieu Amalric, is a middle-aged literature professor who has an appetite for young female students. When Barbara, one of his brightest, goes mysteriously missing, her attractive stepmother Anna (Maiwenn) starts to hang around the university looking for any clues that might shed light on the girl’s sudden disappearance. Marc quickly becomes captivated with this woman and begins a torrid affair with her, unaware that she may have an ulterior motive.

Directed and adapted by brothers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, this version of Philippe Djian’s novel Incidences uses black comedy in the most cunning of ways to tell this strange and disturbing tale. Amalric masterfully takes on the challenge of fusing together being a prime suspect and lovable chain-smoking eccentric, all the while subtly intertwining his characteristic wit. His physical presence in the film has an immediacy that is hard to ignore. The use of the snow-capped mountains looming over the central character throughout the film provides an insight into his internal struggles, from not being aware of his sleepwalking adventures to wrestling with the idea that he might be undergoing an emotional change brought on by falling for an older woman. The atmosphere of the film is cold and bright, juxtaposed skillfully with the heat of lust and darkness of murder. Even the ultra-modern architecture of the university in contrast to the wooden chalet that Marc lives in is a great example of how landscape can truly define the mindset of an individual.

What is the most disturbing aspect is the incestuous relationship between Marc and his sister Marianne (Karin Viard). With a clever nod to Billy Wilder’s iconic 1944 American film noir, Double Indemnity, the pair band together in near repulsion to survive, having shared a terrible childhood. Also, the striking similarity between the two siblings cozied up in a rustic chalet brings to mind the Grimm fairytale of Hansel and Gretel. These two highly aestheticized (hypothetical) influences lend somewhat of a cool glamour to the intricate crime story, allowing for a fantastical element to shadow the happenings and relationships involved in the plot, making them seem a little less serious and more satirical in nature. L’amour est un crime parfait is an exciting and clever film, extremely well-acted and beautifully effected, narratively as well as aesthetically, and not to be missed.

— Trish Ferris






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