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Sombre (1998) – DVD Review

Sombre DVD cover


Written by: Sophie Fillières, Philippe Grandrieux, Pierre Hodgson
Directed by: Philippe Grandrieux
Starring: Marc Barbé, Elina Löwensohn, Géraldine Voillat

Released by: Koch Lorber Films
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Avoid It

Jean (Barbé) drives around the back roads of the French countryside, picking up prostitutes, and killing them. Pretty simple life. Then he meets the reserved Claire (Löwensohn) and her sister, the slutty Christine (Voillat). They drive around for some reason, swim in a river, and Jean attacks both of them. But Claire seems to have a strange connection to Jean and even when she gets the chance, she goes back to the killer. So will Jean answer to his baser instincts, will Claire give in to Jean’s madness, and will the audience give a crap about any of this?

[ad#longpost]I can appreciate trying to do something with the serial killer genre. Especially not with elevating him to demigod status. Jean is not a erudite genius like Hannibal Lecter or a creator of elaborate kills like the guy in Se7en. He simply kills women and because he moves around and the women are probably seen as less of a priority because of their profession–so the police don’t connect the dots. The disjointed style in which the first part is shot creates a tense atmosphere where Jean is pulled by powerful forces that affect his rationality but it’s not done in an artistic way. He’s simply crazy.

My problem with the movie is with the relationship with Jean and Claire. I don’t have a problem with exploring the idea of someone forming a connection with a dangerous criminal. It just doesn’t make sense in this movie. Claire doesn’t seem disturbed enough to risk her life and that of her sister’s for this man. And Jean has no real reason to be interested in Claire besides being a mousy virgin. All we get is a lot of driving and drunken brief conversations that make no sense. There is no real development of their characters into three dimensional beings. They are opaque as to the reasons for their actions and therefore we cannot identify enough to care or even understand what they are doing. There are also weird bits of symbolism that doesn’t make sense. For some reason, this is happening during the Tour de France. Why, I don’t know. I had that horrible feeling you get with foreign or overly artistic movies where you feel you’re missing a ton of stuff because you’re not knowledgeable enough. I really wish DVDs like this had a commentary or some featurettes to illuminate newbies. But this has nothing in the way of special features so I wouldn’t bother with Sombre.

Sombre Marc Barbé Elina Löwensohn
So you kill protitutes. It's OK, everyone has their flaws.

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