BR Films / La Fabrique de Films (2007)
Directors: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo
Starring: Béatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis, Nathalie Roussel, Nicolas Duvauchelle, François-Régis Marchasson, Jean-Baptiste Tabourin
Buckle up, the ride is just beginning.
Inside is the cinematic equivalent of being hit by a truck. It delivers one of the most visceral, intense movies I have seen, whilst remaining cinematically beautiful to watch. Maury and Bustillo have really created a piece of art that is extremely unsettling, moving and stunning at once. To make a movie so eloquently using few locations – the majority of the movie is set in various rooms of a house – and only four main characters throughout the film (with really a handful of supporting cast and extras) isn’t an easy task to get right, but the craft and storytelling employed leaves us with an evocative, compelling story.
Christmas is anything but a season of joy for Sarah (Paradis). Heavily pregnant, her partner tragically killed in a car crash months earlier (a crash with Sarah driving) and being alone on Christmas Eve is bad enough. However, when a mysterious, sinister stalker (Dalle) turns up and is hellbent on taking your unborn child – well, could it get any more nightmarish?
Beatrice Dalle is simply a force of nature. What a performance. It probably helps that she is daunting and no nonsense as a person also, but she really captures the bloody minded intensity of La Femme – by actions and expressions. She is simply known as La Femme (“The Woman”) and dressed in black, which is all we are initially given in terms of her character, and the mystery simply cranks up the tension. She barely has lines to say, but even they are delivered perfectly. Her performance of a woman who is not just grief stricken, but suffering from extreme psychological states with seemingly little remorse is breathtaking. She brings a powerful presence when she is on screen, and a hauntingly chilling performance. Is La Femme evil? Depends on your point of view.
Paradis makes Sarah is a great character. Overcome by sadness and heartache, she delivers a fabulous performance of a solitary woman struggling to pull herself through. Her interactions with her mother and Jean-Pierre feel natural and genuine, and the emotions she brings throughout the movie are powerful. This role clearly pushed her to the edge, it is not an easy subject to be executing and to be able to tap into such a horrific mindset to execute such a wonderful performance is testament to a fine actress. Her raw motherly instincts are a perfect foil for La Femme’s powerful intentions.
The battle between the two is psychologically and physically extremely intense, and the two deliver an incredible dual performance full of severe emotions and actions leading to a shocking final revelation. It is impossible to describe the power of the performances through the movie, and during specific events without delving too deep into detail. Trust me, Sarah’s residence becomes Hell for one night.
The techniques used to create the atmosphere are simple, but very effective. The house is perfectly lit, by lamps, overhead lighting and by dim, evening ambient lighting. The bedroom and hallways seem to have a haze or fog in the air making it appear darker and gloomier, whilst the bathroom is harshly lit and bright white in comparison – the white sanctuary. Orange and reds feature prominently throughout, and not just the blood. Every scene seems to have a sense of depression about it – the light exterior scenes have a gray tone attached, and the scene of the car accident has a chilling blue tone, as the rain pours down. Little details such as the camera flash firing back off the window against the backdrop of night is an impressive contrast. The blood used is pure, dark red – almost black in colour – and there is plenty of it, Inside does not hold back in its use of blood, gore and imagery (so beware) and the contrast of the dark blood painted against the bright rooms and lit areas is unsettling. Oh yes, it’s also Christmas, but try and find the cheer.
The tension built from the beginning is impressive. The intro to the film – the first twenty minutes – is a slow burner as we are introduced to Sarah, witness the catalyst of her grief and see her interactions with hospital staff regarding her baby, and also her mother and boss. There is a dangerous calm about the scenes, though it allows the viewer to settle down into the movie and understand backgrounds and mentalities before, well, all hell breaks loose. The music to accompany these scenes are solemn violin pieces, soft pianos and lush soundscapes – nothing that lowers the mood further, but simply compliments it. François-Eudes Chanfrault has created a fitting, memorable score to accompany the production. Later throughout the film, the musical accompaniments are sharper, shriller pieces to accompany the shifting tone.
The plot points were clever and not contrived throughout, with plausible explanations for many of the key events rather than just relying on the viewer suspending disbelief. This film very much feels like it could happen in reality (it is in fact inspired by a news story of a similar experience) which lends an extra air of dread.
My only negatives with the movie appear during the third act of the film, when a police officer in his car outside the residence hears a disturbance; his actions regarding a perp didn’t feel particularly genuine. In addition, during the climactic scenes, a moment surrounding the same police officer and a fuse box (and subsequent actions) felt out of place right when it didn’t require it. The scene was there to set up a key moment in a characters arc/psyche, but jarred the narrative to some extent.
Inside delivered a visceral, ferocious viewing experience, with two women bound by heartbreaking grief and loss struggling against one another, leading to brutal, haunting ending. It is not for the feint hearted. After watching, it had a powerful impression on me, and delivered an experience that will remain with me for a long time. It is a defining moment in French cinema, and is a stunning example of how to make a potent, unsettling and intense horror movie. It seems strange to suggest the film warrants repeat viewing (due to the content and imagery) but to me, it does. The artistry surrounding each scene is a joy and is a film I’d watch again and again – though the experience of the first time will not be replicated.
Haunting, emotive, poignant art.
August 13th 2016