Wednesday, September 15, 2004

L'Intrus (The Intruder)

L'Intrus is the latest film by Claire Denis, who has also directed and written Beau Travail and, Chocolat (note this is not the one with Juliette Binoche), among many other films. There is very little dialogue in the movie; instead Denis attempts to tell the story in visual terms. The film travels from the French/Swiss border, to Geneva, to Pusan, Korea, to French Polynesia, and back again.

The film slowly focuses in on Louis, played by Michel Subor, a man with a mysterious past, who is trying to come to terms with his past and his future in his travels.

Claire Denis attended the screening, having just gotten off a plane from the Venice Film Festival, where L'Intrus had had its world premiere.

Notes from the Q&A:

- The film is based on L'Intrus, a book by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, which talked about his own heart transplant. This topic of intrusion (e.g. a new heart in the body), which can be dangerous and menacing, is what Denis wanted to explore in the film.

- The film was only finished a week prior to the showing, just in time for the Venice festival.

- Denis had originally planned to shoot in the south Pacific to balance out the images of the north in France/Switzerland. When relating the story to Michel Subor, he mentioned that he had already been in Tahiti, shooting a film years ago in the 60's. Denis was able to obtain a few shots from this film after a two-year search, to show Louis' younger self in flashbacks.

- Denis wanted to use an additional shot from this film, shot by Paul Gegauff, but couldn't because the owners of the film have their own plans for it.

- With the north and the south imagery in place, Denis felt she needed a limbo to transition between these two places. The place she chose to represent this limbo is Pusan, South Korea and the shipyards there. Pusan came to mind from being invited to the film festival there one year.

- The film was not shot in Cinemascope, but rather Super 35, because of costs. The film took approximately a year to assemble and had a relatively small budget.

- Jean-Luc Nancy has apparently seen the film in the editing suite, and couldn't believe his work could lead to such a film.

- The many dogs in the movie are like a border for their owners, and Denis was interested how they are often man's best friend, supplanting other people or even family.

I have to admit that this film is the most difficult thing I have watched so far at the festival, although many in the audience were able to discern a meaning quite quickly. Because of the spare dialogue, everything is communicated through sights and sounds, and often reality and dreams are mixed together. Some of the imagery is quite obvious in how it relates to the central theme, and yet I found it difficult to discern what other images meant. The film is beautifully shot, from the natural scenes in the woods of France and the islands of the south Pacific, to the industrial scenes in a Korean shipyard.

Because this is a less conventional film in terms of characterization and story, I'd suggest it to those who want a challenge, or those who have enjoyed Denis' work in the past. Others might find this film a bit too abstract.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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