Posted in: Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on April 26th, 2010
A first-year film student named Yannick crosses paths with a black cat (literally) and crashes his bicycle, then knocks on the door of a family home in a nice neighborhood looking for assistance. A few minutes later he is held captive by a psychotic family, led by a patriarch who is convinced it is his life’s duty to rid the world of those who are “not righteous.” As our hero Yannick slips between clawing desperation and clever tact in his attempts to escape he is offered a chance at freedom. Jacques, the head of the household, is an undefeated, nation-wide renowned Chess champion, and if Yannick can beat him once, he will be released.
This French-Canadian thriller grips you immediately and holds your attention captive throughout its duration. This film relies heavily on the performances of its leads and they deliver splendidly. Jacques does not appear strange in his psychosis, but calm for his character is convinced of his self-righteousness and his mission. His daughter, whom he is grooming to take over his work, acts out violently when her family is threatened but cannot bring herself to kill in the name of God. The mother has a soft-spot for their prisoner for he displayed great kindness to the youngest child, a small mute girl who quietly loathes her father.
As Yannick’s skill in the game grows so too does his obsession with beating Jacques for more is at stake than his freedom. If Jacques is defeated at chess then all that he has built in the name of righteousness shall crumble with him.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
Great storytelling and very fine performances help to display the ruination of humanity and sanity that occurs throughout this film. Every near-escape that Yannick has only helps to fuel the intensity of the film’s climax and leads to the most morbid game of chess I have ever witnessed on film. Said game goes beyond the metaphor of playing against death, and any Seventh Seal reference therein, and into a realm where the two players are playing with the dead, and thereby death.
Widescreen 2.35:1. A very good picture quality. Most of the film is dimly lit but well lit so you can always make out what you are supposed to. There are scenes where we enter Yannick’s imagination that are vibrant in their bleached white presentation and are flawless in their crispness.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The score is very low key but when the big sounds arrive they are quite clear. The effects are well distributed in the various speakers, some being nicely isolated to the rear when accurate to the way it should be in relation to the framing. The dialogue is clear and everything is mixed very well.
English subtitles are available for the film.
Note: All of the special features are in French only.
Galerie De Photos (Photo Gallery: Self-Explanatory.
Entrevues Avec Les Comediens (Interview with the Actors): Self-Explanatory.
“Mon Nom Est Victor Gazon” (my name is Victor Gazon): A short film by Patrick Gaze that is considerably lighter in tone compared to the feature. It is narrated by a child who is giving details about his life. An interesting shor albeit without subtitles, sadly.
This is a well-crafted, engrossing Thriller. It is harder to find outside of Canada but worth seeking out for those who enjoying something darker in their entertainment.