Current Date: 8 December, 2021
Lemming

Movie 4 d week : Lemming (2005)

Review by Vinoo
Language : French
Director : Dominik Moll

‘Lemming’ is a psychological thriller that will have you glued, particularly so during the first fifty minutes. Alain Getty (Laurent Lucas from the much talked about ‘With a friend like Harry’ (which I hope to watch) and Benedicte Getty (Charlotte Gainsbourg from ‘Antichrist’, ’21 Grams’ etc) are a young, ‘model’ couple who move into a new house in the suburbs of Bel-Air. Alain is just back from a presentation and he invites his boss Richard Pollock (Andre Dussolier who you will recall from ‘Amelie’) and wife, Alice Pollock (Charlotte Rampling of ‘The Verdict’ fame. Also, the eminently forgettable, ‘Basic Instinct 2’ I gather) home for dinner. Richard and Alice arrive late for dinner and from the very first scene, Alice, in dark glasses, is an almost eerie presence. From the interactions that follow Alice seems neurotic. The scene where Alain and Benedicte are having an intimate moment in the kitchen and Alice is watching over is spooky. The first half of the film reminds me of the same uneasy calm of Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny games’. Alice says the reason they are late is because “her husband was with a whore”. She further goes on to throw wine on his face to cool herself. With a disaster like that for dinner we are quickly taken to a seemingly mundane problem of a clogged sink. Alain fixes it only to find a Lemming in the pipe. Lemmings are rodents that are native to Scandinavia.

Alice sees Alain at work and tries to seduce him. She follows it up with a visit to his house when only Benedicte is home. She asks for a room to take rest in, but not before telling Benedicte that she has just seduced her husband. Alain gets home and tries to talk Alice into going home but she commits suicide in the bedroom. Post this event Benedicte seems to have undergone nothing short of a metamorphosis. She has seemingly become Alice. From here on the story takes a different turn with the line between the real and the imagined blurred out. This psycho thriller is at one level about how fragile relationships are, their hidden fears, and how they are never really what they seem on the surface. Well… that is my take.

I particularly liked the dialogue where Benedicte is being told about Lemmings and their mysterious migrations and that the theory that they commit mass suicides is a myth. Benedicte says “A woman committed suicide here last night. It’s a strange coincidence”.
To this, the Veterinarian replies “No. No. No. Don’t imagine there is a link. Lemmings aren’t suicidal. It’s a dumb romantic theory. They actually drown from exhaustion”. I know this fact, about Lemmings, from an earlier article by P Sainath, which is again a must read.

‘Lemming reminds me of a terminology from my Film Appreciation lectures. ‘McGuffin’. ‘Rosebud’ is a McGuffin, a red herring of sorts, I was told. If I understand right, then ‘Lemming’ is one too. For an interesting read on what exactly a ‘McGuffin’ is, check out this link, what Alfred Hitchcock has to say in particular.

Useless trivia :  ‘Lemming’ was the opening film at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Dominik Moll’s earlier hit film was ‘With a friend like Harry’ which like ‘Lemming’ was also jointly written with Gilles Marchand.

Of his latest film, Dominik Moll claims it is natural that people have similarities with Lemmings. On this point Charlotte Rampling agrees. The “characters are so clear”, she said. The dialogue of the film in fact is constructed so that “the answers snake in between like the lemming in the film”. “How are we going to get out?”, she asks.

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