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Marina de Van
Marie, a professor of English literature in a Paris university, has been happily married to Jean for 25 years, although they have no children. During their summer vacations in the southwest of France, Jean leaves Marie sunbathing on the beach and goes to swim in the sea. When Marie turns back, she cannot find Jean. Has he left her? commited suicide? drowned? With no clue and no body to mourn over, Marie acts as her husband was still alive. Written by
François Ozon is a rare director, one who takes a simple story, places it in the eyes and bodies of his cast, and simply lets the tale tell itself. SOUS LE SABLE (UNDER THE SAND) is an unforgettable film experience that probes deeply into our psyches, hearts, and reason: how do we cope with sudden death? Opening quietly in the French countryside, a loving middle-aged couple begins a brief vacation in a family house, quietly and lovingly going about removing dustcovers, opening shuttered windows - settling in for a time of being alone together. Marie (Charlotte Rampling) is a professor of English in Paris (her specialty is Virginia Woolf) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) is her retired husband. Their long-term love is palpable: Ozon provides almost no dialogue, as none is needed to establish this special relationship, so powerful is the non-verbal communication between Rampling and Cremer. They visit the beach the next day and while Marie is sunbathing, Jean goes for a swim - and never returns. Marie searches for him, engages lifeguards, and ultimately returns to Paris, trembling but intact. Months later, while Jean is never found, we see Marie reacting as though he still exists. She visualizes him in various situations and the two actors (yes, Jean is present in these scenes) interact as though nothing has changed. But Marie's friends note with great concern that she is 'delusional' and make various attempts for her to seek professional and emotional help. When news eventually arrives that Jean's body has been found, she internally denies this possibility but eventually returns to the vacation house town to identify the bloated corpse. Even at this point, though obviously in shock, she denies that the corpse is that of her beloved Jean. She walks back to the site where she last saw Jean and in the distance a figure rekindles her hope...
Charlotte Rampling delivers a performance wholly committed. She communicates the spectrum of feelings of this challenged strong woman with her eyes, her gazes in the mirror, her interaction with her class of students, her friends, her admirer with such power that makes her Marie a wholly credible creature stricken by loss yet surviving in her chosen manner. It is one of the great performances of cinema. The entire small cast of this film is perfection. Ozon is a magical director and continues to prove he is one of the most honest and quietly powerful figures in today's cinema. Highly recommended.
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