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The end and beginning of the love of the French couple Marion and Gilles is disclosed backwards through five moments in their lives: 1st moment: They divorce and have one last brutal intercourse without love. 2nd moment: With their relationship shaken, they have a dinner party with Gilles's gay brother Christophe and his younger mate, when an infidelity is disclosed at the dinner table. 3rd moment: The troubled pregnancy of Marion and the delivery of their premature son Nicolas, with the total absence of Gilles. 4th moment: Their wedding, when Marion commits adultery with an unknown guest of the hotel. 5th moment: When they meet each other in an Italian resort and begin their relationship. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 'reverse chronology' format, that has now been tried and tested a few times, will perhaps one day become as unshockingly acceptable as the more prosaic use of 'flashbacks'. Both involve non-linear storytelling, and both attempt to grab audience attention by time distortions. Flashbacks are now so commonplace within mainstream films that the 'purist' Dogme movement banned them altogether being so structurally clichéd and rarely justified. So when Ozon's 5 x 2 tells a love story about two people in five chapters, but starting with the last chapter and working forward, is he using a valid artistic device or just being gimmicky? In the opening scene, our loving couple (Marion and Gilles) are finalising the details of their divorce. Afterwards they have a last-fling sexual bout which takes an unpleasant turn. Flipping back scene by scene, we next see them as a loving married and entertaining visitors, chatting away about fidelity and sexual deviance and again we see a slightly unpleasant turn perhaps the seeds of the divorce that we already know will happen. In each chapter we follow the love story to earlier and earlier stages.
In Irreversible, another French film, the reverse chronology format was used to shock, to take us on a journey from hell to heaven. In Memento it was used to heighten suspense and provide the basic device that the mystery revolved upon we never knew more than the main character about what had happened before.
In 5 x 2 the effect is to highlight small things that go wrong in a fairly ordinary relationship. If it were a gradual decline from better to worse they might have gone unnoticed, but our starting point being divorce our interest in why things went wrong is perhaps more acute.
The other thing that marks out this slightly unusual film is the remarkable acting range shown by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (who won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal of Marion). We see not only an incredible range of emotion but many sides to her character. The finely nuanced performance draws attention to things like the person a woman may be to her husband whilst still have a secret side, or her ability to put on a brave face when crying inside. The observation of a range of emotional and sexual explorations is done with the attention to detail that seems so intrinsic to much French cinema: the characters really seem to feel what is happening as if there is no camera on them at all. Sadly 5 x 2 however may not have the shock value of film like Irreversible or the sugar-candy feelgood factor of films like Amelie: mainstream foreign audiences like their French movies to nevertheless fulfil certain passive entertainment criteria, which this thinking and understated movie obstinately refuses to do.
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