LES AMANTS CRIMINELS (CRIMINAL LOVERS)
France, 1999, 90 minutes, Colour.
Natacha Regnier, Jeremie Renier, Miki Manojlovic.
Directed by Francois Ozon.
Criminal Lovers is a story of a young woman who asks her boyfriend to kill a man for her. The film opens with a focus on the girl, her playing sexual games with her ultimate victim as well as being seductive with her boyfriend. Then we see the crime in all its brutality. When the criminals flee, also robbing a jeweller's shop, they bury the body in a forest. However, a man living in the forest sees them and imprisons them in his cellar - the girl has a reminiscence about her class with a quotation from Rimbaud's Season in Hell. This is the couple's season in hell as they are imprisoned. However, the man in the woods has a passion for the young man, washes him, feeds him, ultimately has sex with him. He allows them to escape but they are then caught by the police. The woman is shot, the boy taken to prison and sees the man of the woods also being taken and cries out in protest.
The film is a study of sociopathic behaviour, presenting the story rather than analysing the psychology of those involved. It bears comparison with such films about dependent killers ranging from In Cold Blood to such films as Heavenly Creatures and Fun. Ozon was the director of the savage satire, Sitcom.
1. The impact of the film? The portrait of young people and their sociopathic behaviour? The crime, the aftermath? Conscience and lack of conscience? Justice?
2. The setting of the town, the school, the gymnasium? On the road, the shops? The forest? The hut in the forest, the cellar? The atmosphere created? The musical score - and the classics including Wagner and Vivaldi?
3. The title, the focus on the two? Their relationship and their love, their dependency? The title focusing on them as criminals?
4. The opening with Alice and her seductive behaviour with the blindfolded Said? The photos, her humiliating him? Setting up the date in the gymnasium? His flashback and his telling his friend all about it? The night, Alice coming with Luc? The shower, the brutality, their cleaning the shower block? Luc going home, writing the note, taking his father's car? Their wrapping the body and taking it away? - The later flashbacks and filling out the details of what happened in the shower block, Alice's behaviour, Luc discovering there were no photos and she was not getting revenge for rape, this disturbing his conscience? Her cavalier attitude?
5. Driving away, the decision to rob the jeweller's shop - and its being easy? Luc's awkwardness, the holes in the balaclava? Going to the supermarket, buying the spade, stealing the food? Going to sleep in the car, going to the forest?
6. Burying the body in the forest, the audience knowing that they were seen? The parting of the leaves? The death of the rabbit on the road - and Alice's tears and compassion for the rabbit instead of human beings, her demands that the rabbit be buried - and with Said's knife? Their being caught by the man in the woods?
7. The house, Luc's discovery of it and seeing the man, getting the key, taking the food, his catching them? In the cellar, the darkness, the rats? The man's beginning to read Alice's diary - the insertion of the flashbacks to explain the crime? The class, Alice's drawing Said, reading from Rimbaud's Season in Hell? The cellar as the couple's season in hell? Making the man in the woods the Devil, or God protecting them, offering them some kind of salvation - or at least Luc something?
8. The man, no explanation, his manner? His making Luc his slave, chaining him? The rope? The washing? The cooking, the meal, feeding Luc? The sexual advances, the sexual behaviour? The effect on Luc? Emotionally, physically? The man and his disdain for Alice, leaving them with the body in the cellar, the amputated leg - and his feeding Luc the leg?
9. Alice, in the cellar, hungry, thirsty, Luc getting her some food? Eventually getting out and drinking? The flashbacks and the explanation of her behaviour: antagonism towards Said, drawing him, seductive, his arrangement with her, the striptease behaviour? The murder in the shower, her story of the rape and the photos and its untruth? Leading Luc on - any real feeling for him or just wanting to use him? The murder, cleaning the floor? Her reactions in the car, the robbery, going to sleep? The over-reaction to the death of the rabbit? Burying it? Burying the body? Her interactions with Luc and the set-up, getting him to steal the knife? The presentation of facts rather than explanation?
10. The escape, the man letting them go? The police chasing them, Luc and Alice and the waterfall, the sexual encounter? Luc's foot being caught in the trap, his being taken? Alice with the gun and her being shot? Luc in the van, the man of the woods being arrested and blamed? Luc's emotions towards him, calling out that he was innocent?
11. The effect of this kind of experience, entering into the world of sociopaths, observing, trying to understand, judging? Alice and her lack of any redemptive quality? Luc and the possibilities of some kind of change and conscience?