Review: Madeleine Collins
- VENICE 2021: Virginie Efira rules in a Hitchcockian film by Antoine Barraud with a very sophisticated and particularly devious script, rich in discomfort, suspicions and surprises
“Who is it? - It’s no one.” Indeed, who is actually the protagonist of Madeleine Collins [+see also:
interview: Antoine Barraud
film profile] by Antoine Barraud, a very enigmatic film à tiroirs that dives into the heart of dissimulation and identity, and which was presented at the Giornate degli Autori at the 78th Venice Film Festival? By very skillfully and progressively lifting the veil on the double life of a woman split between two households in two countries, the French filmmaker (appreciated in Locarno for The Sinkholes [+see also:
film profile] in 2012 and in Berlin in 2015 with Portrait of the Artist [+see also:
film profile]) instills an atmosphere of discomfort and mystery that grows, at the limits of the thriller and the psychological portrait. This fog doesn’t stop thickening at each new level of the plot, with each clue meant to illuminate the strangeness of the situation only reinforcing it, cornering the heroine even more to face the mirror of her own fragile and duplicate existence, with the threat of revelations of an elusive truth, of a final confrontation with herself.
“It’s been a year and a half that you are on a business trip every week.” In France, Judith Fauvet (Virginie Efira) evolves in a very bourgeois milieu with her orchestra conductor husband Michel (Bruno Salomone) and their two teenagers. But she also lives a few days every week in Switzerland with the much younger Abdel Soriano (Spanish actor Quim Gutiérrez) with Ninon, a little girl who cries every time Judith leaves again: “in other countries, are you still my mom?” Because the translator for international institutions is not content to simply navigate between two countries, isolating herself to secretly answer phone calls from the two spheres of her existence and lying without blinking when necessary. She also takes short trips in other European territories, as well as invents other travels. Sometimes, she even gives the name Margot Soriano and we discover that she is getting herself some fake Swiss identity documents (with Nadav Lapid as the forger).
However, “the beautiful woman who pretends not to be terrified even though she is” sees her edifice of appearances cracking and threatening to crumble and smother her at random from suspicions from her relatives, projects from various people or unfortunate chance encounters telescoping her two lives. Yet that’s not all, as Abdel has had enough with “all these stories” and it is revealed that he knows Michel well. But who is Judith? What other secrets is she hiding? What is going on in her head? And who is the Madeleine Collins of the title?
Opening with a very intriguing sequence, the film unfolds itself over a formidable and very well handled script (written by Barraud and Heléna Klotz) built upon a very subtly orchestrated succession of unexpected discoveries for the spectator who is never prepared for them, before the narrative switches to a last straight line that is more ‘conventional’ and melodramatic. Woven with a Hitchcockian tonality (see Vertigo), playing with variations of tension and a few flashbacks, Madeleine Collins slowly reveals itself to be a bewitching exploration of a woman’s torments. Naturally, a great performer like Virginie Efira was required to play such a troubled personality, an actress who excels at transmitting micro-emotions through a simple quiver of the face or a dark glimmer in an opaque gaze, a woman hinting at vast and inscrutable depths beneath a perfect mask of beauty.
(Translated from French)
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