So Sunday Morning Movie Reviews will be back on the 24th of October but I had to get this one out there, so here it is. This weeks movie is an import from our French-Canadian friends just a touch north of us. Les Sept Jours du Talion, or Seven Days here in the states is the type of movie that I have been waiting to see for some time now. A film that takes all the right risks at just the right times and demands that its viewer be fully engaged and feel something in every frame projected.
The plot on paper is your standard revenge flick, but once in motion things happen that will floor most viewers. Claude Legault plays Dr. Bruno Hamel, a man terribly wronged when a serial child rapist/murderer makes the good doctor’s daughter Jasmine his next (and last) victim. Dr. Hamel takes it upon himself to exact his own brand of justice by way of a week of methodical torture that will culminate with the killer’s own death on what would have been Jasmine’s 9th birthday; sick and touching all at once isn’t it.
Now the knee-jerk reaction here is to root for Dr. Hamel unconditionally a la any number of recent revenge movies, Death Sentence comes to mind right off the bat. But unlike Death Sentence or Death Wish or either Kill Bill volume, Dr. Hamel is not taking on gangs of thugs or moderately comical “super villains”, there is a very intimate conflict between two men attempting to figure out which of the two is less human. Seven Days is definitely more Straw Dogs than it is Taken, one man’s journey to the brink of morality, devotion & humanity in an attempt to do what he feels is right.
In terms of construction Seven Days is like nothing I’ve seen before. Tight close ups dominate the film and more often then not our focal point is not set at center stage. The effect this has is one that makes the viewer feel as if they are peering into someones life/tragedy and not just watching a movie. We are made to feel uneasy by the way the camera offset most of the time and it works perfectly. There are beautiful panning shots of the doctor and his wife sitting silently in their now too large home and when the camera does move it is in ways that are hypnotic and always add to the overall atmosphere of the film. No cheap shaky cam or camera tricks are present. The screen is awash in grays or unrelentingly vivid colours depending on the the setting and there is no music to speak of the entire time. You read correctly, not one single NOTE of music accompanies the picture and it leaves you breathless.
Music is a great way to dictate the way a viewer should be feeling as things progress but removing it altogether demands us as viewers to be much more engaged with the characters we are viewing. If a bombastic soundtrack does not accompany Dr. Hamel as he presses the barrel of a shotgun against the exposed genitalia of his daughter’s killer, making up our minds as to whether or not this is right is a harder conclusion to draw and it also makes things much harder to watch. The absence of music makes every emotion feel very real, as Dr. Hamel’s wife cries alone in their home violins are not necessary to project to the viewer how distraught she is about her loss and her husbands actions. The emotional conclusions we draw are therefore not swayed by musical cues and I actually found myself feeling ways at times that I did not expect.
The lack of music also adds to the shocking nature of the violence in the film. Let it be known, this is not a movie for the squeamish. It is violent, plain and simple. Soundtracks also remind us that we are in fact watching a movie and as Dr. Hamel beats his version of the devil with a giant iron chain as he’s strung up naked in a cabin, there is nothing to muffle the sound of heavy metal tearing soft, moist flesh. I could go on for pages upon pages about how the lack of music or enhanced sound effects of any kind was a revelation but at the end of the day will be something you must experience for yourself to grasp fully.
Moving on to actors, characters and direction. I don’t know any of these people, the director, the protagonist, nobody. I was, however, floored by everything they did. Turns out the directer, Daniel Grou; this is his first major outing and my god did he come out swinging. I wish that i could say more and most likely will in the future when he’s got more movies under his belt but as it stands Grou is definitely someone to watch. The characters felt unnervingly real throughout. Claude Legault (Dr. Hamel) and Martin Debreuil, who plays killer Anthony Lemaire do not have one conversational exchange the entire film. Legault’s Dr. Hamel remains silent while the killer first begs for his life then plays for sympathy and finally taunts his captor. The move to not have Dr. Hamel speak to Lemaire was a stroke of genius. Why would he want to talk to the man who raped and killed his daughter? Too many times, in most genres, the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’ get caught up in this ongoing dialogue that at times can just feel absurd. This is not the case here, the two main characters maintain the right amount of distance from one another.
So what does it all amount to in the end? One of the best/most engrossing/rewarding/riveting/emotional engaging/difficult to watch yet wonderful movies of the year, if not the last five. Do yourself a favor, if you want to experience a movie that transcends the revenge/torture porn label that people seem to be giving it and drown in the depth of such intense subject matter, watch Seven Days and remember that humans are far more complex than Hollywood has led you to believe. I could say so much more about this movie but I suggest you all just watch it and we’ll talk afterward.
So, I’ve forgotten about this thing again but it has everything to do with being mad depressed and confused and completely drained emotionally. Its not you tumblr, its totally me. I do however have plans to watch what i hope to be a sweet Sunday movie and I will write up a Monday Morning Movie Review. Till then
Lots of things happened this week and there is no better way to make sense of them all but to just go ahead and rattle off a list. Here go’s something…
- No matter how badass you might think it is, a prison tattoo that reads ‘pussy eater’ is not awesome in any kind of way.
- When you think you can beat the rain on your bike, know that you can’t.
- When you carry a 2300 cubic inch bag around while riding, there should always be a dry pair of jeans and a fresh t-shirt in it (and possibly underpants and socks).
- Riding in the rain is both annoying and exhilarating.
- I’ve got a friend who can be pretty flakey and it’s really annoying. However I don’t think that I can ever write her off because when we’re together things are wonderfully on point and we just click.
- The sound of a baby crying in the distance is heart breaking while a baby crying right next to you shreds your ears apart.
- I’m fairly stoked about moving next weekend.
- Work is by and large a rewarding experience.
- I’m not good at Halo anymore.
- MosDef + dub reggae beats = soundtrack for the summer.
All in all it was a great week that had its standard ups and downs. I plan on starting the packing up process tomorrow after work so we’ll see what all gems I unearth. I’m looking forward to it.
Dear virtual construct,
It has come to my attention that there is a world outside of you. A world that is unfiltered, inspired and wondrous, just like you, but tangible. Being a Chicagoan from the uptake I hibernate from December through March. The harsh winds and unreasonable drops in temperature beat my body senseless. Commuting via bicycle all winter for the first time was punishing but oh so rewarding. I can now wear with great pride my Chicago Bike Commuter badge, fuck the hipster tag and all those ‘cool kid’ riders who hide their bikes and skinny jeans when the first snow dusts Clark Street. Me and Scarlett Hemingway (my bike), we did just fine. But I digress…
The point is this, I’ve not been ‘round these parts for well over a month, in that time I rolled the odometer to 26, found a new apartment, found a new favourite movie (Kick-Ass), lost weight, gained weight, fell in and out of love and have been in a generally better mood on account of the sun being out regularly. Also Vampire Weekend’s ‘Contra’ has been in heavy rotation and I don’t really know what to say about that. The one thing I haven’t done is write. That changes today/night…
I’ve been spending a great deal of time outside, riding from here to there, stooping & enjoying the general merriment that comes with spring in Chicago. We’re not all pissed because it’s too hot yet and all the pent up energy from another long winter is gleefully unleashed on cracked city streets. The smell of fresh greenery and budding flowers dances in the air with bus exhaust & it’s magical. The changes in season have shaken the rust from my gears and there is no reason to be still anymore. So I say this to you worlds, inspired and re-purposed, I plan do, say and write things that matter now and I’ll share them all.
*Note: My brain is moving so quickly nowadays that thoughts I express will most likely be all over the place, we’ll get through it together.