L’Inconnu du Lac – Alain Guiraudie, 2013
I have been reading loads about this movie these last months, and I decided it deserves another review. When I read that Edinburgh Filmhouse was actually screening it this March I completely freaked out. In fact, I truly think that about every single person in Edinburgh loves Filmhouse, because it always gives a chance to taste the true nature of cinema, scheduling unmissable seasons. Praise to Filmhouse aside, director Alain Guirauidie forged a movie that will hardly stick out of the minds of its viewers for its complexity and challenges towards certain boundaries in cinema. Sensual, provocative, intriguing, silent, thoughtful, are the right words to describe L’inconnu du Lac (Stranger by the Lake), and more of the plot itself, I am interested in exploring the way the subject has been treated, the setting and the atmosphere conceived.
Franck (Pierre de Ladonchamps), is an ordinary of the beach where the narrative unrolls, placed on the edge of a lake in France, surrounded by a thick forest. It is a nude beach, mainly visited by gay male people that usually cruise in shaded spots in the greenery. Franck is strongly attracted by Michel (Christophe Paou), a hunky man, new visitor of the beach, that draws the attentions of the all the others. When Franck remains a little bit longer within the shadow of the thicket late in the evening, he assists the murder committed by his crush Michel himself. Here it begins the core of the plot, which deals with the falling in love of Franck with Michel, the former driven by an impetuous thrust of sexual desire towards transgression and peril, the latter acting as utterly unaware of the crime he himself committed, embracing the sexual interest of Franck. Their dangerous relationship ends up in a climax that leaves us wide mouthed, puzzled by Franck’s feelings and his naivety, but unlocking many doors for speculation and imagination that are often forgotten within the contemporary cinema industry.
As previously stated, the magic of the movie lies in expressing physical and mental human nature as we know it and deal with it everyday. It leaves it unspoiled, without trappings. In fact, there are no bans in sex scenes or simple close-ups, we see everything of the characters’ bodies, when they either sun tan or have rough sex. This can shock, or can also impress in a positive way. Shorty, the movie speaks truth and bluntness. Is it really shameful to see human bodies on the screen for what they really are? Is it seen controversial the fact that homosexual sex has been shifted to the screen for a big audience while around the world being gay means suffering and despise?
In a place where nudity is the normality, the beach and the forest are the two real characters of L’inconnu du Lac, the speculation about what they do represent can result in a tripping maze where not an answer is the correct one, but where artificiality has no role. It is freedom, controversy, transgression, nature, sexuality, love, friendship. It is a sort of heaven-like place, or, also, a status of mind, untainted by society and its constraints, where the Franck deals with his inner pulses. After the murder takes place, Franck’s sexual desire towards Michel is higher and uncontrollable, so that he either takes no notice of the clear bipolarity and psychopathy of Michel, or he finds it exciting and transgressive. Their relationship will lead to the death of Frank’s friend, stunningly played by Patrick d’Assumçao, who is seen as a threat by Michel, and that will sacrifice his life to make Frank open his eyes on the danger that Michel represents. But this will not work out in this sense; Frank’s attachment to Michel goes beyond anything, he is completely unable to control his mind.
Human mind can be scary, because of its unpredictability and instability, but it is it only when we find ourself in extreme situations without any restraints that its blackest shades come up. This is the line L’inconnu du Lac is playing on, and in the most satisfying way. This is another timeless masterpiece that will accompany me throughout my life, and its originality and purity will make me watch it again many, many times in the future.