Director:- Alain Guiraudie
Runtime:- 97 mins
The very title invokes the works of Hitchcock and classic film noir. An unknown figure at an indistinct location. The possibilities for chicanery are endless. There is a beautiful simplicity to writer-director Alain Guiraudie’s lustful thriller; set at a remote lake in the French countryside where members of the gay community meet to cruise for discreet sex. It is a world where anonymity is the norm, almost encouraged. Relationships form and finish in the space of an afternoon. Lovers meet and part like ships passing in the night. The perfect place to make somebody disappear.
Pierre Deladonchamps plays Franck, a frequent visitor to the lake (despite constantly making claims to the contrary) who finds himself overwhelmingly drawn to the mysterious Michel (Christophe Paou). It is an attraction that overrules rational thinking, as Franck finds himself falling in love despite having firsthand knowledge of his partner’s dark side. It is a rich slice of French neo-noir to rival the works of the 1930’s and 40’s; an everyman hero being drawn into a dangerous relationship by a shadowy figure with unknown motives. Like the darkness drenched streets of film noir, the lake exists in a bubble, a landscape out of reach of societies laws as well as it’s prejudices. While honouring narrative conventions of the genre, Guiraudie astutely skewers traditional notions of gender roles. Our femme fatale here may be male, but he possesses all the same enticing qualities that threaten to lead our hero to destruction.
As well as breathing new life into a forgotten genre, Stranger by the Lakebenefits from strong performances from the all-male cast, who seem undaunted at spending the majority of the runtime nude. The brave performances are matched by the director’s approach to filming, which is striking and revealing. One long, uninterrupted shot in particular, coming midway through, is particularly shocking; managing to shatter the illusion of a peaceful haven for these secretive men, and Franck’s illusion of his ideal man with it. Our protagonist, along with director and cast, take a great many risks in this twisted and tense romantic thriller. They are risks that pay off in abundance, offering a film that is beautiful, shocking and thoroughly rewarding.