David Briant (Jean-Pierre Bacri) lives with his wife Elaine (Nicole Garcia) and his daughter in a fancy glass house he built in the countryside. David is a very successful architect, while his wife is a music producer. One day driving out from his mansion, David is stopped by a man who hits his car with a trailer. The guy looks familiar, and suddenly David realizes the man to be Bronsky, an employee he had at a construction site in which he worked and where a terrible accident happened. Bronsky lost his arm during the occurence, and there’s nothing he can do anymore due to its disability. David feels guilty because of it, since it was probably his fault and the whole thing has been covered up to save his career. David is under pressure and decides to hire Bronsky as a gardener and his wife as a baby sitter for his daughter, not to spread around rumours about the misfortunate event, that could affect his achievements in life. The duo have a daughter as well, almost same age of David’s, and they could spend some time together playing. Elaine can go back to work without worries, and David has his conscience cleaner, even if he’s convinced that it wasn’t really his fault. But things are not what they seem to be, Bronsky and his wife don’t want only to be helped, they want revenge, and once insinuated in David’s existence, they start to work toward their only goal: to tear the man’s life apart.
Shot in 1986 by Joel Santoni, one of the few movies for the big screen he directed and probably his best, the film is an excellent exercise in suspense and it’s a precursor of such later US hits like The glass house and The hand who rocks the cradle. Bacri and Garcia are very good in their roles while Dominique Levanant and Jean Pierre Bisson shine in the parts of the creepy deranged couple, with a twisted mind. Santoni makes a perfect use of his location, using the hugely windowed villa to create tension out of something that should instead be of comfort. While being inside is possible to see Bronsky’s sinister figure moving around, often in the rain, wearing his shiny black raincoat (quoting a topic of the Italian Giallos of the 70’s), unwatched by David and his wife, spying on them, with only the audience being aware of his presence.
The tension in the story, based on a novel by Joan Aiken author of the script as well as Santoni, is build up slowly in the tradition of a classic thriller, to explode in the third act of the film with the violence and fast pace typical of modern slashers. The violence in the movie is more psychological than graphic, but when it comes to this point, Santoni delivers a couple of scenes that are as unforgettable as disturbing, specially when he shows David’s little daughter naked tight with steel wire in a bathroom; a scene that would be impossible to shoot nowadays as it would be considered outrageous due to the involvement of a minor.
The deranged working class getting its revenge, would probably let the viewer think of a right wing approach to the story; but things will change forever for everybody at least, and without to spoil the ending I could only say that both of the families will be transformed in the process and will melt together. At the very last, this is an entertaining film, very well made, whose only limit is the 80’s music score that today is so frankly dated since it contextualizes the work too much in that era.
Its political message is as interesting as anarchic and its heroes: unusual. Bronsky and David are respectively one mad, the other dishonest, even if we don’t really know what happened before it is clear enough he feels guilty, because something he did was a mistake, but nobody since he’s successful and powerful would admit it. On the other hand Bronsky, the apparently weaker one, it’s not justified in his horrible acts by the fact he was done a wrong. His wife is crazy as well, while Elaine is too self absorbed in a job that looks very much the fancy pretence of a real one, specially those rich bored women usually do.
Only the two girls are likeable, David’s one fragile and weak, left alone often from her parents looking for affection and warmth. Bronsky’s apparently silent and weird is as resolute as daring when it’ll come in the end to take drastic decisions. Even her is looking for a real family and could find tenderness and respect only with one of her very own age. Deconstructed the families, destroyed the barriers between left and right, what remains is the future generations that have to overcome class differences and build themselves a better future based on comprehension and common ground if they want to fight the evil that lays apolitically in both sides.
The DVD examined here is the one L.C.J. Editions et Productions released in the film native country. There are no extras, but the movie has been painstakingly restored from its original negative and the image is sharp, crystal-clear and clean from any damage. OAR 2.35:1 16X9 enhanced. Sound French original stereo. No subtitles, but I checked on line and it’s very easy to find English subs for the film.
The movie has been forgotten, but has acquired a cult status during the years, and has been quoted by the directors of A l’interieur as a primary source of inspiration for the use of the locations and the mood of the story. Check this out, on a rainy Sunday, possibly.
Film mass is ended you may go in peace
sequences from the film