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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is actually a thriller, a drama and a social film I am going to talk
about. It is based on true facts: the kidnapping of an industry
captain, in the 70's. A very rich, wealthy and arrogant billionaire is
kidnapped and the story starts. Up to now, nothing really unusual.
But the study of the characters is solid, breathtaking, all this helped by a great editing. The study of human behavior; the study of a rich man, master of everything around him, who discovers that his family, friends and business associates want, through this kidnapping affair, get rid of him, and this for different reasons ; the study of those friends, family and associates who will find out that the "boss" and family chief is actually a gambler, a playboy, a fancy SOB, nothing else. An empty human being.
This movie is the study of the falling down of a man who, in another film, would have been shown as a hero. And a victim.
A great film.
Go and see it.
The movie is very slow moving and I wouldn't be surprised if quite a
few people gave up on it, being bored and all. And if you expect a high
adrenaline thriller, let me tell you: Look elsewhere. You won't find it
here for sure.
What you will "find", is a movie that cares about characters and is very subtle. Maybe I'm reading things into it, but the sublime and underplayed changes that happened during the course of the movie are just incredible. There is not a big bang or something grandiose happening. It's in the details and the small things (acting and otherwise) that the story continues.
If you can bear with it and love it for it, you will be rewarded with a very human drama. A drama that might even stay with you, after you finished watching the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Belgian-born Lucas Belvaux, who began his career by running away to
Paris and becoming an actor, has over 45 TV and film acting credits and
is in the cast most recently of Robert Guédiguian's Army of Crime. As a
director he's best known for his "Trilogy," three films with
interlocking stories and characters, each filmed in a different genre.
Cavale/On the Run is a 'policier,' or thriller; 'Un couple épatant'/'A
Terrific Couple' is a comedy; 'Après la vie'/'After Life' is a
melodrama. For this now-famous project Belvaux won the Prix
Louis-Delluc in 2003.
'Rapt' is a thriller, and an elegant-looking and beautifully made one that is both breathtaking and thought-provoking. It stars a riveting Yvan Attal, a hot actor this year who also stars in another high-energy 2010 "Rendez-Vous with French Cinema" film, Cédric Kahn's amour fou tale, 'Regrets.' Through the course of 'Rapt,' one is drawn into a closer and closer identification with Attal's character and his complex, disturbing, very modern fate.
The English word 'rapt' of the title, used for this French-language film, carries with it a hint of shock. It's meant in its basic sense of transported, carried away. It sounds like "raped." It's more arresting and harsh than the French word for kidnapping, 'enlevé.' The subject is just that, the kidnapping of a rich and powerful corporate head so high up he deals directly with officials of the French government on a day-to-day basis.
At first the movie promises to be a conventional thriller: rich guy held for ransom, bargaining, tension, threats -- and the diminutive, swarthy Attal doesn't seem totally convincing as Stanislas Graff, a mover and shaker of the French establishment. What's he running around about? The rapid sequence of opening scenes also fails to define fully who exactly Graff is, whether government or business. His being constantly called "Président" throughout may confuse us as American viewers. But it doesn't hurt the film too much for his identity to be somewhat generic.
This is because once Graff is captured things become much more convincing, and (spoiler!) after he's released, things become interesting and surprising. 'Rapt' is another stunning example, like Guillaume Canet's 2006 star-studded version of the Harlen Coben novel 'Tell No One,' that the French now can do American thrillers better than Hollywood, giving a spin to them that's both classic and fresh. Belvaux's ingenious film succeeds very economically -- without money wasted on explosions or special effects -- both as an intense nail-biter and as a tale that reaches for the philosophical and heroic. He's very high up, very powerful, but he's also someone those closest to him hardly know. The kidnapping of Stnaslas Graff is seen as a primal trauma that alters his life and his family's, company's, perhaps his culture's equilibrium irrevocably. Nothing can be done to go back, and nothing can ever be the same in Graff's world again.
Graff's chauffeur-driven car is stopped, he's carried away, and he's very rapidly hidden away, terrified, humiliated, hurt, and mutilated. A finger is sent off to prove the kidnappers really have him. The confinement goes through stages. At first he's continually masked and not allowed to look in the face of the (also masked) guardians, and he must hover in a tiny tent inside some vast abandoned prison complex or factory. Later he's moved elsewhere, fed properly, talked to pleasantly, allowed to move around in a cell, and his chief kidnapper, still masked, lets him look. Meanwhile frantic activity goes on in Paris. The ransom demanded is 50 million euros. His family can't access his money. His company agrees to advance a sum, no more then 20 million. Later it goes higher.
The police enter the picture massively, but against the wishes of the company and Graff's attorney, an elegant black man, Maître Walser (Alex Descas of '35 Shots of Rum,' also in 'The Limits of Control'). The rest is a story of warring forces and shifting loyalties, with female family members (Anne Consigny, Françoise Fabian, Sarah Messens as loyal mother and reproachful wife and daughter) tested by revelations of Graff's secret life, his gambling debuts at poker and the casino, his mistresses and posh glass hideaway above Paris. All this is now published in the magazines and tabloids. It's even suggested by people in the company and the police that Graff could have contrived the kidnapping to settle his debts. His influence at the company is seriously dented, and during the two months of his confinement, the interim CEO gains power. When it's all over, Graff has only his red setter to love him and to love. And yet there is a rebirth. But it may be illusory.
'Rapt' carries its story beyond the conventional climax into a kind of heroic struggle for identity and power, a drama of the essential loneliness of man and the dominance of image in the modern world. Some of the speeches in the last segment might come from a contemporary version of Corneille or Racine. Attal is remarkable, suffering, Christlike in confinement, also resembling the death mask of Marcel Proust; then reborn, fiery, but surrounded by confining police protectors and intimate betrayers of trust so his freedom seems anything but that and the real brutality may be in release, the real prisons wealth, power, and fame. But it's not that simple: Rapt isn't preachy or tendentious; it supplies you with a damn good time but leaves you pondering. It may be a better film than it seems, or even than its makers realized. In his famous "Trilogy" Belvaux played with genres. Here he uses a single genre to transcend genre. Like Cantet's Tell No One, this plays very well as a mainstream film, but is much more.
'Rapt' opened in Paris November 18, 2009 to very good reviews; shown at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Walter Reade Theater and IFC Center, New York, March 2010.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Stanislas is a man born with luck: rich in a rich country, beautiful
wife and family, CEO of his family company, chauffeur, lives in a
Parisian Palace. And yet, just one false step and he ends up kidnapped,
humiliated, one finger cut off, beaten, starved, and most important,
devoid of all power. We learn he led a double life, lovers from
different countries, an apartment he used frequently, hunting trips
and... game debts. Big debts. Does the kidnapping owe to his debtors?
Or is it somebody from his own circle, wanting his post? Was it a
self-kidnapping, as a means to erase his debts? As hypothesis multiply,
doubts flourish in his own company and family circle, and issues start
to come up to the surface.
Well filmed, the contrast between "civilized" rich man's life and the gritty and humiliating treatment of the kidnappers is what stroke me most of this film. How easy it is to slip from one world to the next. It happens in the best of families, in the first world too.
My favourite character is S.'s politically incorrect mum, Marjorie (elegant Françoise Fabian), usually saying what everybody thinks. Maître Walser is also fine. Françoise and her grouchy daughters are correctly hateful. You may like red setters (his dog's breed) a bit more now :).
Fellow IMDb reviewer "JRlock" wrote it well: "is not easy to capture both the sympathy and contempt of the viewer in the same movie, but he did here". And Chris Knipp's insights, like how Stanislas' freedom may be illusory, how this may be a film about solitude, or what the French title sounds like, have to be read from his own bright review to be enjoyed.
Not easy watching, as you probably know already, but enlightening.
'RAPT' is a nasty and effective French thriller, although the nastiest moment comes early on and is subsequently not trumped. A rather unlikeable millionaire businessman is kidnapped; the film follows both his ordeal, and also the response of his family and associates. There are some thriller conventions here, particularly the slightly unbelievable professionalism of the kidnappers, but it's an effective movie nonetheless: tense and fast-moving, but also an interesting exploration of what might happen when someone loses all control of the narrative of their own life (and to wit, someone who has been used to doing exactly what he wants). I'm not sure there's any moral here, beyond the general unpleasantness of mankind (and more particularly, the rich), but the film not only entertains, but does so in an intelligent and provocative way.
RAPT is more an experience than a film. It is based on the true story
of the 1978 kidnapping of French industrialist Edouard-Jean Empain, a
millionaire playboy who is abducted and held for ransom for 60 days.
Though it is a very fine thriller of the kidnapping/ransom genre this
film is far more than that. It is an exploration of the lives of men of
wealth who allow their moneyed status to be able to buy anything,
behave in any way they wish, and trample lives of family and friends in
the process. Is it a pretty picture to follow? No, certainly not, but
it is a revealing fact that a crime of kidnapping can be secondary to a
life of greed and consumption of power and money that feeds into lives
such as the main character of this film and the governmental agencies
to respond differently to these moneyed moguls.
Stanislaff Graff (Yvan Attal, in a mesmerizing role) is the wealthy industrialist married to the beautiful and wise Françoise (Anne Consigny), and also has a lover. He is kidnapped brutally from his limousine on the eve of his visit to China as part of the entourage of the French president. The kidnappers treat Graff cruelly, keeping him blindfolded and tied in a tiny tent in a dungeon of a basement: they demand a fifty million euro ransom. As an acct of proving their serious plot, they cut off one of his fingers. What follows is a terrifying sparring match between kidnappers, police and the board of the company of which Graff is the director. The main question for the board: is a human life worth more than fifty million euros? Will they be able to get that amount of money together in time anyway? While they decide this he degenerates physically and mentally in imprisonment. After sixty days Graff is released to a world now cognizant of his secret life of gambling and escapades and secret apartments that the press dredges up, revelations that are especially painful for his wife. Paying his ransom won't bury his secrets.
This film was written and directed by Lucas Belvaux who presents his story with more emphasis on subterfuge and the psychological aspects of the affair that may make the film seem slow moving (125 minutes) but at film's end we realize that the true crime is not so much that of the kidnap/ransom but the abuse of power and money when so many in the world are suffering from homelessness and hunger and foreclosures etc. The drama is significantly heightened by the work of cinematographer Pierre Milon and the moody musical score by Riccardo Del Fra. This is a demanding film but an important one, and the acting of everyone in the large cast is on the highest level - especially the stunning performances by Yvan Attal and Anne Consigny.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would be difficult to find anything to change about this film. Often
I'll watch a film and wonder how the heck could a film costing millions
to make put in something so stupid. With this movie, it seemed almost
I really disliked the daughters and mother after he got home. The guy soaking in the tub after 2 months being held captive and losing his finger and his wife coming in and telling him " we suffered too!!! do you know what we went through?!!!!". Really makes you want to slap the stupid out of her.
To the guy wondering if he was going to kill himself. Absolutely no way. Did you miss the part at the end where his attorney told him several times how rich he was. The guy didn't GIVE his stock to the company...He SOLD the stock to them. So he surely could still pay the ransom.
Whether he paid the ransom or not, and if he did pay it, did that leave him completely broke? ....is unknown..But, I think the ransom amount (20million) to be paid at "calypso" was exactly how much he was worth...
The end point is that he basically lost everything - his job, his wife, his reputation...and assuming he paid the ransom - his wealth as well... So he was left with nothing other than himself alive...And probably feeling quite lucky to have that. It's all we really ever have for sure until we die...All the other stuff is just a bonus.
This is like other European crime movies I've seen, very detailed and low key, and seemingly very realistic. This one is like the others in that it's sort of interesting all along but rarely compelling. There is, in a weird way, no drama, not in movie terms. The facts are dramatic--kidnapping, torturing the hostage, that kind of thing--but the movie plays it all out in a realistic way that emphasizes police procedure, gentle conversations with loved ones left behind, and lots of waiting with the hostage takers being meanies.
It's weird to belittle this movie because in a way it's really competent, even very good if this is what you want. Compared to American (Hollywood) kidnapping scenarios (that Mel Gibson movie comes to mind), this makes the Hollywood versions ridiculous. But at least the Hollywood intention to entertain, to create high drama, is fulfilled. Here, in "Rapt," we are not actually ever rapt (that is, suspended in some kind of riveted attention).
If you sort of know this isn't your kind of movie, I'd skip it. If you do like very realistic crime films that are made with great attention and lots of empty spaces (at least psychically), then you might well really like this. In the details, I found the conversations between the family and cops trying to rescue him really dull and not quite believable, and I found the scenes where the hostage takers were roughing up the hostage too prolonged and unnecessary. This alone dragged the whole experience down. For me.
It's worth noting that the movie scored many awards in France, and that the Rotten Tomatoes rating is really high for it. The IMDb rating seems more in line, to me, for now (about 6.7 at the time of this writing).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think some of my good friends here with the other reviews need to
watch the film again. Some, not all.
Yes, it's a somewhat slow and quiet film, beautifully shot and acted. Though supposedly of some sort of "thriller" genre it is actually a "thrillingly" excellent character study. Not the sort of example of humanity that is gratifying to see however.
The main character's kidnapping and two months in captive isolation are essentially a metaphor for his own solitary confinement in his cold narcissism. He is no less his own prisoner than if he had contrived the kidnapping himself, as the police have reason to suspect.
When his wife, and daughters, seek some sort of contact and contrition from him for the fact that his betrayals are now a matter of public disgrace, he quite coldly declares that it is himself alone who deserves pity and solace, and that he will explain to no one. His faithful dog is treated with more affection and care.
You would naively think that his "ordeal" would effect some sort of transformation of his personality. Sorry, personalities, especially this kind, do not change so easily. He loses one of his fingers, but otherwise is intact. (Want some cheap symbolism? The finger is gone, but he easily lights up that big cigar of self-indulgence.) He knows, and we know, that the kidnappers have left him with a means not just to satisfy them with his money, but to "do the right thing" in preventing the further violent mayhem they threaten. Innocents will be killed at random. He does have the money: his shares of the company have been sold and his lawyer congratulates him for how extremely wealthy he still is. The kidnappers want their full 50 million.
The film ends perfectly, I think. He sits alone in his palatial room on a regal chair, with his cigar. His wife is divorcing him, his daughters have been distanced by his coldness and empty claim of love. The "Calypso" message arrives. He sits. My understanding of his character, as it has been portrayed so consistently, is that he thinks to himself something like "that is no concern of mine."
The outline on the main page gives the guts of this story, apparently
based upon a true-life event. Perhaps it was, but this story is as much
a well-constructed thriller as it is a character study of various
powerful people, particularly the victim of the kidnapping, Stan Graff
(Yvan Attal) who is gradually revealed to be a thoroughly unpleasant
business mogul, concerned only with his own self, his pleasures
In a quick series of opening vignettes, we see Stan at a hurried business lunch, thence to an apartment for a quick tryst with a woman (the clichéd lover every French male seems to have), then to a darkened room where he and others are playing poker, then to home to greet his wife and daughters, then to a solitary inner sanctum to be with his dog while he rests in solitary splendor.
The next morning, he is kidnapped, whisked away to a remote, rural location where he is held, blindfolded most of the time, and brutalized physically and mentally.
His wife, Francoise (Anne Consigny), at first is shown as a dutiful wife and mother; but, as the plot develops to reach the climax, she shows how little she truly cared about Stan's ordeal at the hands of kidnappers. Equally, Stan's daughters (played by Julie Kaye and Sarah Messens) show themselves to be more concerned with their mother or themselves.
Stan's business associates and so-called friends also bring similar attitudes to bear. When things get tough for them as they try to keep the company running, while Stan is held to ransom, the financial aspects of the company and its survival gradually predominate. Add to that mix are the revelations about Stan's infidelities and gambling debts that begin to surface in the press.
All in all, the film is therefore a study of what type of character lies beneath all the facades when emotions, needs and tensions run amok. Ironically, one of the most sympathetic characters is the kidnapper-in-charge the only person who tries to make Stan's ordeal less terrifying that it could have been; although, it's terrifying enough for most viewers.
As expected, the production is classy, faultless, well-paced (although some will disagree), appropriately suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining. The scenes containing the police action, reaction, re-planning and shadowing of kidnappers attempting to pick up the ransom are riveting.
It's the ending, though, that will puzzle many, enrage others or, like myself, raise the possibility of an entirely different interpretation to the one that seems to be the case. Watching and listening carefully to what is done and said will reveal for you, I think, what truly happened. If you see the movie, you'll know what I mean.
Like Anthony Zimmer (2005), in which Yvan Attal also starred, Rapt is another excellent thriller with twists that match, and perhaps surpass the former. So, do yourself a favor and wrap your mind around Rapt. And let us all hope that neither Hollywood nor others try to produce another take.
Give this a nine for sure.
June 7, 2012
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