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also known as The Captive

La captive2000

  • 3.5
Chantal Akerman’s insinuating chamber drama distills the romantic pathologies of suspicion and control with remarkable precision. Based on the fifth volume Proust’s IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, LA CAPTIVE treats the novel’s fetishized structures of detail and time as symptoms of a slow spreading sickness. The film opens with Simon (Stanislas Merhar), an idyll and comfortable writer, watching home movies of a group of women frolicking on the beach. Among them is his lover Ariane (Sylvie Testud). The architecture of this scene, with Simon at once possessing the woman’s image and yet still hungering for its hidden significance, sets the stage for his dissolute pursuit of absolute knowledge. A methodical pursuit through the streets of Paris is borrowed from VERTIGO, but Simon has reached a more advanced stage of voyeurism. He keeps Ariane in a small room in the stale apartment he shares with his grandmother; the young woman waits his call and holds herself lifeless for his embrace. But there’s an intractable problem with the arrangement: Ariane’s distant passivity facilitates Simon’s control, but it also inflames his lingering suspicion that she remains “elsewhere,” a wound formally realized in Akerman’s captivating mastery of offscreen space. The film’s philosophical evaluation of the limits of control is as much a matter of composition as dialogue, with the lovers’ elaborately ritualized intimacy depicted in obstinate long takes. Akerman’s objective cognition of the doubts and desires underlying Simon’s passive aggressive behavior makes LA CAPTIVE an unusually acute psychological study with formal elements perfectly calibrated to realize an incurable remainder of despair.

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"An intractable, object-like movie with many pleasing symmetries…" - J. Hoberman, the Village Voice

Member Reviews (9)

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top reviewer

I like Proust and slow arty movies, but found this one frustrating. So often things just didn't make much sense to me, were unexplained, inconsistent. I liked the grandmother and wanted to see more of her, was sad when he didn't go with her to the doctor, not very considerate. But otherwise, nothing engaged me deeply, as the pair didn't seem to be in love at all, showed little personality, brilliance, or depth. The movie is beautiful in the outdoor scenes in nature, and would be lovely in the more domestic scenes if I could get past the bizarre lifestyle of being waited on like that.

He's a handsome man, and she's ordinary looking and sounding, and I did appreciate that he liked her anyway, that she wasn't required to be ideal. I felt sorry for her, until she admitted lying. She said she was happy with him, but how could be be? Never was anything positive shown, no playfulness, nothing. Way too many mysteries for me.

But at the same time, it did function as a good reminder about how obsessive human nature can be, unfortunately.

4 members like this review

The best part was when he dry humped the girl.

2 members like this review

the dry hump scene had the most action in the two hours.

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so much of unspoken between the two lovers. it creates an enormous tension, mistrust, misery and anxiety. it is easier to stay silent and hide than explain. great acting and cinematography. loved the door frames and corridors. the house and it's space. obstructions that limit dimensionality, limit actions, measure life. a totally profound film.

top reviewer

Chantal Akerman's minimal adaptation of Proust works, but just barely. Stanislas Merhar deserves much of the credit for the film's success. It is an interesting film about obsession that runs a bit too slowly and more than a little too long.

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top reviewer

Hitchcockian studies of dark obsession melded with Proust's introspective melodrama and study of identity as funneled through Akerman's distinctive style make for a deceptively simple film that contains deep thematic currents carried along by the mesmerizing thriller narrative on its surface.

top reviewer

Much of the experience of viewing this film felt incomplete ... whether it was an understanding of what kept these two in captivity, or a a visual interpretation of their own aesthetics of what this relationship was based on. Perhaps this is the point of the filmmaker: to show how so much that happens within a relationship, is just a mystery, stumbles and turns, and repetition. All without really getting to what we are searching for. Like walking into a room ... what was it I was looking for in here again?

Difficult, difficult to understand... unless you like Proust.

The most fascinating part of this film to me was the use of language. Spoiler alert: the use of the the formal and familiar tenses at inverse segments of the main couple's relationship was a particular point of curiosity. Yes, it's a slow film, but it leaves much for digestion later.

Subversive in its form, but of course that makes it hard to watch. Patient film.