If your definition of a horror movie involves lots of gore and suspenseful crescendos calculated to thrill through fear, you don’t know real horror.
This movie is a true horror story. True horror. A true story.
Alain Marécaux (Philippe Torrenton, spectacular!) is a loving husband, father to three children, a respected bailiff living a normal, middle-class life in Northern France. Their life isn’t perfect, but whose is, n’est-ce pas?
Like an errant bolt of lightning, police raid his house, displace his family, and imprison Alain and his wife, Edith (Noémie Lvovsky), accusing them of being part of a pedophilia ring.
The writer Franz Kafka could not have imagined a more hellish existence on earth: Alain is accused of unspeakable acts that include his own children being placed in different foster homes. He is forbidden from communicating with his wife, who is enduring the same humiliation.
His reputation already indelibly stained, Alain must regularly submit to humiliating questioning that his lawyer is unable to halt while his answers are ignored. He must quickly adapt to his new heinous life in prison, keeping secret his alleged crimes lest his inexplicably predestined path to guilt accelerate.
Every visit from his sister brings worse news than the last. Every promise of release is withdrawn. Without breaching the walls that confine him, he loses everything he owns that lay beyond. Understandably, Alain falls into a pit of despair, and one begins to hope for the worst so that his suffering can end. No such luck; his mortal coil is forcibly restored each time he tries to shake it off.
L’Affaire d’Outreau, as it was known in France, never made national news here. And I’m not going to reveal any more about it.
Enjoy your ignorance: don’t diminish the impact of this superb movie by googling the details until after you’ve seen the movie.
American unfamiliarity with this scandale allows us the gift of a finely crafted thriller, in addition to a lesson in recent French history.
Unlike most American legal dramas, this one doesn’t limit the story to the courtroom. Director Vincent Garenq expertly chooses to tell Alain’s story (rather than the story of the entire case). Limited to Alain’s point of view, the audience is deprived of the outside world and thus can understand the paranoia and trauma that consumes him.
It is interesting to note that while the American title of the film is Guilty, the French title is Présumé Coupable (Presumed Guilty). This may be because in the American justice system guilt must be proved, while in France the burden is to establish innocence. Or perhaps it is not.
Put this on your must see list at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Only two screenings!