Je m’appelle Vincent.
Last week, I was delighted to discover the French film director Alice Winocour through her latest film Maryland. As I looked her up, I noticed that she co-wrote the upcoming film Mustang (director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven), which I am looking forward to – I did ask myself how a French writer could participate in a Turkish script, but I’m sure I will figure that out.
In Maryland, we are introduced to Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), who has recently returned from war to Southern France and finds himself in a transition period, waiting to be sent away again. Unfortunately, he is showing symptoms of shock and possibly has hallucinations so his doctors want to keep him at home for a while – something Vincent has trouble accepting.
Thanks to a friend from the military, he takes on a job as a security guard during a luxurious party hosted by a Lebanese businessman and his German wife Jessie (Diane Kruger). As Jessie’s husband needs to leave on what seems like dodgy business, Vincent is hired to stay at the estate to look after Jessie and her son.
This film is full of mystery. The dialogue is incredibly minimal, especially between Vincent and Jessie. This reminded me of how in acting, silences and long pauses can be what makes a scene so effective. The relationship between the two main characters moves so slowly, and their social statuses separate them so much (at first glance), that it takes half of the film for them to actually introduce themselves by their first names.
After a paranoid chase scene followed by an actual violent encounter with possible enemies of Jessie’s husband, the two sit in the kitchen and Vincent notes that “by the way, I’m Vincent”. This is a beautifully simple moment.
A bit later in the film, the two have a tired moment on two couches in the estate’s living room. This is the first time they laugh, and it is quite surprising to see Schoenaerts smile! The actor has a very animalistic quality, and although I haven’t seen any of his other films, he seems to always make an impression and I do intend on catching up – I’m thinking of Rust and Bone and Far from the madding crowd.
As Vincent, suffering from PTSD and hallucinations, he is in a quite depressed state, longing for acceptance and someone to protect and Jessie and her son become the object of his protection. With the camera using his point of view throughout the film, we notice that he is intrigued by her and her beauty. This conviction that he can protect her sometimes makes him overconfident and too involved, which creates interesting drama and conflict between the two. Schoenaerts portrays a haunted character who is torn between too much confidence and an utter lack of trust for who he is and what his eyes see.
Kruger’s character is the wife of a very rich man and probably stays home alone too often. She seems quite arrogant at first while speaking to the kitchen and security staff. As we only get to know her through Vincent’s eyes, she is also a big mystery. Through sequences of her speaking to one of her friends in Canada on the phone, we start imagining a whole life. We also learn that she is multilingual, which Winocour uses to imply even more history. I enjoyed watching Kruger in this film, and the simplicity of her acting. I hadn’t seen Kruger on the screen in much too long. This type of intimate and realistic film suits her well.
Time flew during this tense film. Some scenes are long, but because of the heavy silences between the characters and how eager we are to understand Vincent, we are drawn in. Sequences of slow motion also remind us of Vincent’s altered mind, and so we need to particularly focus on what is real and what is not, without ever really finding out. This is increased by Gesaffelstein’s soundtrack, in which we lose ourselves: as music and sound become louder, we expect something explosive. On the contrary, when we’ve managed to relax a bit is when everything is turned around.
After Maryland, all I want is to watch more risky, mysterious and simple French films.