The fact that this beautiful, expressive face belongs to Charlotte Rampling is a real break for the audience.

UNDER THE SAND

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Under the Sand begins silently and seductively. By simply observing a couple as they drive from their Paris apartment to their country house, director Francois Ozon gains and holds our full attention. By the time Jean (Bruno Cremer) and Marie (Charlotte Rampling) begin their vacation, we are curious. Yet little has been said, little has happened.

We have watched a middle-aged couple drive along a glorious coastline, leaving behind one life, heading for another. As they roll along the open road past the immense scale of sea and sky, we sense something in their obviously comfortable, familiar routine. Whatever is there, it is neither joy nor anger. She makes spaghetti, he pours wine. They sleep; they wake up and go to the beach. She lies down on the sand to doze in the sun, and when she wakes up, he is gone. Police, helicopters, and divers search the sea, but it quickly becomes clear that he will not return.

As the police question her about any personal or professional problems that might explain Jean's disappearance, we realize that neither she nor we will ever know. He is simply gone. And she, suspended in the confusion of instant loss without proof, sees him everywhere. She talks to him, and he to her. She buys a tie for him, makes breakfast for two. There are moments when we think he has come back.

Marie's friends despair at her insisting on referring to her husband in the present tense, at her quiet refusal to move on with her life. She allows herself a joyless affair with Vincent (Jacques Nolot) after discussing it with Jean. She commutes by subway, works out, swims, and continues her life teaching at a Paris university. In an arresting moment, she reads to her class from Virginia Woolf and is overcome.

Leaving all his things as they were, she grasps at the slightest hint that he isn't dead. In a terribly sad scene, she is radiant when a watch the police have found does not belong to Jean. Against all reason, she will see him always, because he simply went for a swim.

The film explores Marie's grief without drama, spending much of the time focused on her face. The fact that this beautiful, expressive face belongs to Charlotte Rampling is a real break for the audience. With very little dialogue, Ms. Rampling takes us with her through the various stages of her sorrow and denial. We are reading her face, but she keeps her friends and the audience at a distance. We never really know what is in her mind, or what was in Jean's. We have long since given up thinking of this as a story. It is, instead, immersion in one woman's sorrow, a state conveyed by Charlotte Rampling with the utmost subtlety. We have stepped into her grief without knowing exactly what she is thinking. What we do know is that she is utterly alone.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Winstar Cinema
Rating : NR
Running time : 1h35m


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