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:: Under The Sand

Fans of Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply, will be familiar with the terrain of Under The Sand (Sous le Sable). A woman’s grief for her dead husband stops her from moving on with her life.

Being French however, the film is more grace, more melancholy that its British counterpart. Charlotte Rampling is luminous as Marie, a woman whose life comes to a halt when on a seemingly mundane day at the beach. Her husband goes for a swim and never returns. She is launched into a state of semi denial, with shattering moments of clarity. Her performance is restrained, the deep emotion rippling just under the surface of her still beautiful face.

There is no clear plot to the film, and it is not surprising to learn that it was shot in two halves, the first with no script, in 35mm, then six months later, with a freshly written script and 16mm. It is rather, a collection of moments, most memorably, Marie’s acrimonious exchange with her mother in law. The rather dull beginning suddenly becomes poignant after Marie’s husband’s, Jean’s, disappearance. The questions, did Jean deliberately drown himself, or did he fake his death in order to escape Marie and their boring married life, are not really there to create mystery. We know the answer ourselves. The finale is open ended yet still satisfying. There is no end to the journey that Marie is on.

Under The Sand sometimes seems to strive too hard for deep and literary meanings, particularly with the reading of Virgina Woolf’s, “The Waves”. Like the recent film The Deep End, the metaphors of water seem somehow too much for filmmakers to stay away from.

Francois Ozon is a young French director who last year made Water Drops on Burning Rocks, an adaptation of Fassbinder. The direction is smooth, and the camera knows that the best place for it to be is lingering on Charlotte Rampling’s face.

Screening at the Lumiere Cinema