This years’ Cannes film festival boasted not one, but two films that came with homosexual sex controversies. This is perhaps the less talked about of the two, despite the recurrent ‘real sex’ debate it has once again stirred up.
L’inconnu du lac is a strange piece of cinema. Being set entirely on a gay cruising beach it naturally includes the encounters and interactions of these characters. However, it seems as if the film switches genre halfway through. At the beginning it appears to be some kind of murder mystery, except the mystery doesn’t exist for the audience and the investigator lacks the flamboyance of a Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. However it reveals itself more and more to be a high-stakes relationship drama, adding the fear of death into the inevitable fear and vulnerability of a love story. Given these starting points the inclusion of ‘real sex’ scenes seems obvious as a way to push the audience into that vulnerable place as a viewer. It’s a daring and interesting way of pulling the audience out of their comfort zone.
What is entirely unnecessary, on the other hand, is the smug tendency of the camera to linger over and revel in the male form from every possible angle and distance. There is no reason for these shots to be so frequent and it has the unfortunate effect of rendering the atmosphere of the film borderline pornographic. Sadly it seems to be there purely to attract controversy and press attention as it serves no narrative or artistic purpose. In addition to this, the film employs narrative quirks which quickly become passé as the sequence of days repeats itself, over and over, to signal time passing. This is a shame. There are certainly ideas to be gleaned from this film, some very interesting ideas, but they are lost in the trite and ugly form of observation.
Without wishing to give too much away the ending really lets this film down. Having built up a tense and shocking environment Guiraudie allows it to spiral into some kind of morbid farce in the last ten minutes. It’s a cross between a cheap horror film and a Greek Tragedy and it leaves an unsatisfying taste in the mouth.
- Entertainment: 3/5
- Artistic: 2/5
- Intellectual: 2/5