L’ AMANT DOUBLE/ DOUBLE LOVER
France, 2017, 104 minutes, Colour.
Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier, Jacqueline Bissett, Miriam Boyer.
Directed by François Ozon.
A more than suitable and informative title for this film might have been Unsane – but Steven Soderberg had taken it for his psychological thriller about a young woman caught up in her psychological problems, clashes with psychologists, and the audience wondering what was real and what was happening in the young woman’s mind.
This time a young woman, in Paris, Chloe (Marine Vacht), is physically ill but her doctor recommends her going to a therapist. She chooses a male therapist, Paul Mayer, who is an intense listener rather than intervening as she explains her life and her problems. However, she becomes infatuated with him, he with her and the therapy has to end. Paul moves in with Chloe. He now works in a hospital and she gets a job in a museum as one of those men and women who sit for security sake observing the visitors. (The paintings and sculptures are more than a touch of weird.)
So far, so psychological. However, coming home by bus one evening, she sees Paul talking to a woman outside a building where she knew he would not be present. She goes back to the building and finds a psychiatrist there, Louis Delord, Paul’s true surname but which he had changed. She begins some therapy with him. He is the opposite to Paul, abrupt, intervening, demanding and very conscious of collecting his fee. She becomes more and more involved and deceiving Paul who by now is truly in love with her and proposes.
One of the features of Chloe’s life is her dreams, planning to go to a dream therapist but going to Louis instead.
Once the relationship between her and the two men is established, she has more and more vivid dreams, erotic dreams, an, the audience at times is not too sure which is dream and which is reality – too far-fetched to be real.
The film offers a lot of reflections on relationships between twins, bonding, rivalry, hatred – and a physiological theory that in the mother’s womb, one of the twins can absorb the life of the other.
And this is compounded by Louis admitting that he and Paul are twins (which the audience immediately realised, although Jeremie Renier does good work in making the two similar but different) and there is enormous sibling rivalry. The name of a young woman from the past is mentioned and Chloe goes to visit her, finding her the victim of a car accident, helpless in a wheelchair, looked after by her mother (an interesting French-speaking role for Jacqueline Bissett).
And, just as we might have been sorting out what was really happening to Chloe and in her dreams, there are even more complications. As with Soderberg’s Unsane, some reviewers have been very critical of the difficulties in following the plotline, seeming to think that this is all a narrative presented realistically. However, realising that this is a blend of reality and fantasy, where life and dream (and we have to keep checking if we can appreciate which is which), the film becomes quite intriguing, at one moment everything seeming to be reconciled, at the last moment the audience wondering whether this is true or not.
The film was directed by François Ozon, who for 20 years has been making a range of quite striking and varied French films.
1. Psychological drama? Reality and fantasy, dreams?
2. The work of the director, the range of films over two decades?
3. The title, the emphasis on twins, from a story by Joyce Carol Oates?
4. Chloe’s story, the initial encounter with the doctor, her physical examination, the stomach pains? The referral, her choice of Paul for therapy, uncertain, silence, their talking, his listening, Is Not intervening? Going back over her life, alienation from her mother, her childhood, pains, her career as a model, a number of lovers, her illness, the meetings and her return, the therapy, the effect on her, the effect on Paul? The kiss, ethical stopping of the therapy? The decisions? The style of camera work for the interviews, profiles, split screens…? The effect for the audience examining Chloe and thinking about her psyche?
5. Her moving into the apartment, Milo her cat, Rose and her welcoming? The apartment, unpacking? Paul and his work, coming home, the sexual encounters, her dreams? Paul not liking Milo? Her getting a job at the Museum, sitting and security, and the range of paintings and sculptures, the touch of weirdness?
6. The theme of twins, Paul and Louis, alienation, hatred, rivalry? Both therapists? Chloe, the sense of a twin sister? The plausibility of the story, her absorbing her twin, becoming the cyst, causing it is?
7. Seeing Paul outside the building, accusing him of lies, the irony that it was his twin brother? The return, meeting Louis, the different approach, rough, his instant insights, wanting the fee, her being hurt, the fascination, her return, the development of the relationship, the affair, sexual, his reaction? Her reaction? Her explaining the therapy to Paul as if it was with the therapist for dreams?
8. The range of dreams, with Paul, the anal experience, the ménage with Louis and Paul? Highly eroticised? Audience response to the reality and unreality?
9. Paul away at the conference, discussions about the therapist the Chloe did not go to?
10. The information about Sandra, from Louis, going to visit, the encounter with Sandra’s mother, Sandra’s illness, and the wheelchair, the effect, her staring at Chloe? The mother telling the story, Paul and his relationship, Louis and the betrayal, her attempted suicide? The mother condemning Chloe as a prostitute?
11. Paul, the return, his version of the story with Sandra? Chloe going to Louis’s office, Paul present, the confrontation? The attack?
12. Chloe thinking she was pregnant, Paul wanting a child, the collapse, to the hospital, the discovery about the cyst, the absorption of her twin?
13. Paul, Chloe’s mother, coming to the hospital, the explanations, their support, the mother’s apology?
14. The irony of the characters in Chloe’s imagination and dreams?
15. The finale, with Paul and her mother, the images – and the final imagination, her future, reality or not?