Set in Paris, Hell also known as L'enfer follows the lives of three sisters, Anne, Celine and Sophie. Each of the three women are experiencing their own torment and the sisters also share a dark memory from their childhood. Sophie suspects her husband of having an affair. Anne is having an affair with a married professor while Celine visits their mother - who has not spoken for years - in a rural nursing home every weekend. When Celine meets a young man, she little suspects the true motive behind his approaches.
The fact that this French picture is four years old (that explains the slightly dated look and the burnt in English subtitles) and is getting a DVD release here means that the distributors are confident that there will be a group of French film fans, And you’d know it’s true when you see Krzysztof Kieslowski’s (the great Polish director of the Three Colours trilogy) name frontlining the back cover of the DVD sleeve. Also, if you are a French cinephile, you’d recognize names like Emmanuelle Beart (8 Women) and Guillaume Canet (Narco: The Secret Adventures of Gustave Klopp).
Based on the trilogy “Le Paradis, L’Enfer, Le Purgatoire” (Heaven, Hell and Purgatory) by Kieslowski and Krysztof Peisiewicz, three sisters (Beart, together with Karin Viard and Marie Gillian) share a bond to a brutal childhood incident, and this reunites them to have a chance to come to terms with their past. What follows is a series of incidents plagued by intrigue and betrayal.
Kieslowski and Peisiewicz were the geniuses who worked on the Blue, Red and White trilogy and with this second collaboration, you can expect nothing less. Following Heaven (2002), this second film before Hope (2007) is a showcase of fine storytelling and excellent acting by every member of the cast. The moment the film begins with its rousing music and disturbingly captivating graphic visuals, you’d be drawn into the plot’s thick suspense. And like many other French films, it won’t let you go, that is, if you have the intention to appreciate this piece of fine art.
Sure, this isn’t your usual feel good fare. In fact, it is a rather cold and lingering film that stretches itself out over 98 minutes. But like any other fine piece of work, it takes patience to fully savour the more intimate and intricate elements of the film. Be astounded by the breathtaking and thought provoking cinematography. If you are into film analysis, then you’d find yourself trying to search for meaning in every single angle and every single shot under the photography direction of Laurent Dailand (Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra).
The capable cast delivers intense performances as well. With a storyline like this, it would be almost impossible not to be drawn into the actor’s passionate performances. Be it Beart’s angelic look, Viard’s (Children's Play) soulful portrayal or Gillian’s (The Pleasure Is All Mine) poignant expressions, each of the three sisters would impress you in different ways. And if you are a die hard French cinephile, you’d want to include this in your DVD collection too.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains no extra features.
The disc’s visual transfer is somewhat grainy due to the datedness of the film, and is presented in its original French audio track.
by John Li