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March 1992, in a small town in the suburbs of Paris. During an alcohol fueled party, teenagers discover a body hidden in the bushes of a forest. A body that seems lifeless. Two weeks earlier. Simon, a 16 year-old teenager, has not shown up for class. Blood stains are found in a class-room. Run-away, kidnap, suicide, murder? A few days later, Laetitia, a student from the same class goes missing without her parents knowing where she has gone. A young girl with no dark background or connection to Simon. The next day, Jean-Baptiste, a third student, also disappears. Rumors start to spread. The psychosis begins... Written by
Less a nail-biting thriller than its punchy-but-misleading English title, "Lights Out", would suggest, "Simon Werner a disparu..." is a carefully constructed mood piece. Using the sudden disappearance of popular high school student Simon Werner as a backdrop, writer/director Fabrice Gobert explores the insular world of high school gossip and suspicion where rumours spread fast, students dwell on the sinister, morbid and absurd, and not even an ostensibly dead classmate can distract from a fascination with sex and partying and a disdain for schoolwork, teachers and parents.
Seemingly everyone in Simon Werner's class is leading a double life, and Gobert re-frames the days leading up to Werner's disappearance from the perspective of four of his classmates, showing us how they interact to each other's faces and behind each other's backs. Almost anyone could be implicated in the disappearance, and the constant presence on school grounds of a police investigation into Werner's whereabouts adds to the atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia.
Gobert keeps the film minimal where it counts, and the result is tightly-scripted and avoids unnecessary sprawl despite its multiple protagonists and interwoven subplots. Sonic Youth's distortion-heavy score and the film's minimal colour palette and late-Autumn backdrop of a 1990s suburban high school surrounded by dense forest gives the film a visual, tonal broodiness that complements its themes. The result is subtle and atmospheric, if not occasionally light on plot, and with a twist ending that underscores the restlessness and capriciousness of its characters and their relationships.
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