FILM REVIEW: The Blue Room

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On the surface Julien Gahyde (Mathieu Amalric), lives in a large modern home, has a perfect wife, wonderful family and a successful job. Yet, this all changes when he has an ‘accidental’ encounter with Esther Despierre (Stéphanie Cléau) who went to the same school as him.

Esther berates him for kissing all the girls except her, and making up for this lapse they swiftly indulge in a short-lived but passionate affair. The film opens with their bodies entwined in the confines of a blue-walled hotel room where, like a vampire, she bites him on his lip drawing blood that drips onto the crumpled bed sheets.

Julien is arrested and interrogated about a murder. We do not know who is the victim, but through flashbacks we see how the affair started and how his life unravels through this period. We slowly get pieces of the puzzle that show him getting away on holiday with his daughter and his wife Delphine (Léa Drucker), though even at the seaside the affair still haunts him and they return under a cloud.

Making things worse Esther starts sending him cryptic postcards that he destroys. Was he conspiring in a murder plot with Esther? Or is he the victim of circumstances engineered by Esther? The details are forensically laid out and Julien makes no attempt to defend himself or explain events. His dull life was spiced up by the affair and he accepts that he is guilty. Ironically, his fate and Esther’s is decided in a blue-walled courtroom. They are literally and psychologically trapped in blue rooms, which exist in their memory and in the present.

The pace of the film is slow and methodical, which is faithful to Belgian author Georges Simenon’s psychological thriller ‘Le Chambre Bleu’ written in 1964. Its structure breaks down  to reveal how little Julien knows about his existence and his control over events that seem to have been orchestrated by Esther from the beginning.

Amalric’s direction leaves us with many questions, which underlines the ambiguity and difficulties of relating to the demands of bourgeois existence.

Nigel Watson

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