OOM #22 – Sombre (1998)


Sometimes I surprise myself. Welcome to the October Overlook Madness, the place where we find the weirdest choices that no one else makes for films that you should see for the Halloween season. Today we delve even deeper into the horror cinema of 1998 with this particular French film, because the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness decided to have just another discussion today, but this time about the Halloween Specials from sitcoms or made specially for TV, with an emphasis on the Charlie Brown specials. It’s a heartwarming discussion and you can watch it here, while on my end I have to subject myself to… this.

I don’t think I can honestly chronicle or talk about what was seeing this movie for the first time, or how it felt like, or how I overall think about this movie. And I say first time because I know that down the line I’ll revisit this movie, just to try and find what is this whole thing about. I spent most of the day before I finally sit down with this film trying to find anyone who had seen it, anyone who had an opinion, and reading (mostly skimming) articles about what this movie was, and I found myself with the apparent idea that this director just makes this kind of “aural” films that are visually striking yet not always as thematically or script-sound. While I don’t fully agree with that last part of the apparent consensus, I do think that there’s an emphasis by director Philippe Grandrieux on the technical aspects and how we experience the film in itself, but there’s also an underlying theme about how most of the events and characters depicted here are metaphors on how the treatment between men and women have been in the recent decades. Now, of course it’s a highly politic and questionable position from where one can stand, specially when the two male characters that appear one is a murderer rapist and the other is a cheating family man, but this isn’t exactly a feminist point of view as one would think, that while the women pictured are murdered and raped, there are a couple of principal women that are left to their own free will and they seem to purposely be involved in those acts of violence against themselves, but that doesn’t mean that it’s supporting the wrong idea that women “are looking for it”, and thus having an anti-feminist stand. I’d say that this particular film is beyond any stupid modern duality in which we would try to put it into, as it goes beyond that as a complex portrayal of avatar-like postures from not really genders as much as they are representations of the psyche of the human being, or maybe I’m just reading too much into this.

There’s a striking visual stand that the director takes, specially regarding how the illumination works and when we film and when the images take place. The brighter pictures are one of a supposedly idyllic landscape: sunlight, a river, naked women frolicking, where the figure of the murderer comes to disrupt that, but in the rest of the movie, it mostly takes place in the penumbra, in the dim lighting where we can barely see what’s going on, and our most trusted instincts there are through the sound design that in its depth reminds me of David Lynch films and in its eerie qualities. I feel that there’s a lot and at the same time not much else to say about this movie. It’s not one that you can truthfully say you can “enjoy”, but in the way that it’s framed, the way that the images continue each other and how it’s all so consciously constructed, it’s a movie that should be explored further and it manages to create thought, opinion and feelings. A movie worth seeing.




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