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Pola X (1999)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 9 October 1999 (Japan)
A young writer becomes intrigued with a mysterious dark-haired woman who claims to be his long-lost sister and he begin an unusual relationship with her prompting a downward spiral involving his domineering mother and lovely fiancée


Leos Carax
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Guillaume Depardieu ... Pierre
Yekaterina Golubeva ... Isabelle / Pierre's half-sister
Catherine Deneuve ... Marie / Pierre's mother
Delphine Chuillot ... Lucie / Pierre's cousin
Laurent Lucas ... Thibault
Patachou ... Margherite
Petruta Catana Petruta Catana ... Razerka
Mihaella Silaghi Mihaella Silaghi ... The Child
Sharunas Bartas ... The Chief
Samuel Dupuy Samuel Dupuy ... Fred
Mathias Mlekuz Mathias Mlekuz ... TV presenter
Dine Souli Dine Souli ... Taxi driver
Miguel Yeco Miguel Yeco ... Augusto
Khireddine Medjoubi Khireddine Medjoubi ... Cafe owner's son
Mark Zak Mark Zak ... Romanian friend


Pierre, a young man of privilege, whose anonymously-published novel is a hit and who's about to marry his blond cousin, Lucie, abandons all when a dark-haired vagrant tells him her secret late one night in the woods: that she is Isabelle, his sister, abandoned by their father. Pierre breaks off with Lucie and his doting mother, heading for Paris with Isabelle, intent on knowing the dark side of human nature. He begins a novel, sending chapters under a pseudonym to his publisher; his relationship with Isabelle moves beyond the fraternal; and, in winter, the frail Lucie comes to live with them. Family jealousies mount, and Pierre may have discovered despair instead of the truth. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Pola is an acronym for "Pierre ou les ambiguites," the French translation of the title of the Herman Melville novel on which the film is based. See more »


Margherite: Be careful! You dream of writing a mature work, but your charm lies in your thorough immaturity. You dream of setting fire to God knows what, of rising above your times like a dazzling cloud, leaving everyone terrified and admiring. But you weren't born for that, Pierre! You don't even believe it yourself.
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Alternate Versions

An alternate longer TV version entitled "Pierre ou les ambiguïtés", edited in three one-hour episodes was shown for the first time on September 24, 2001 on 'Arte', the German-French TV channel. It has not been released yet. The 3-episodes-version is not only longer, but also closer to Carax' original concept, that the film should consist of 3 distinct parts: "The film was thought to be in three parts, three chapters. There's the one chapter in the countryside, called 'In the Light.' I knew this chapter would be light, it would be green and white, green for nature. I dyed all of the actors' hairs blonde and put them in white shirts. (...) So the film is going from light to darkness and rust. (...) So there was a conscious [decision] of going from light to dark, and from 35mm to 16mm." (Sept. 2000) See more »


Referenced in Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (2006) See more »


Written by Scott Walker
Performed by Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris
Conducted by Jean-Claude Dubois
Christophe Guiot (1st violin)
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User Reviews

While extreme on the surface with its fair share of incest, sex, and violence, this is a strong film for its psychological study of bohemianism and decline
29 May 2018 | by crculverSee all my reviews

When Leos Carax's film POLA X premiered in 1999, it was seen then as part of the New French Extremity movement, with critics and audiences picking up on its unsimulated sex scene. Yet that forms only a brief few minutes of quite ample film. Two decades on, audiences of today ought to look past the sensation and appreciate the film for what it really has to offer: a convincing contemporary take on Hermann Meville's psychological novel PIERRE, and the way Carax interweaves Melville's structure of 19th-century wealthy elites with harrowing references to contemporary France, Bosnia and the plight of Balkan refugees.

The son of a deceased diplomat of some note, Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) lives in splendor in rural France, in a manor house with his widowed mother (Catherine Deneuve). Things are going well for young Pierre: a novel he has written has become a bestseller and he is engaged to the lovely Lucie (Delphine Chuillot). But then he encounters a mysterious woman named Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva) who tells him in broken French that she is his half-sister, born to Pierre's diplomat father and an unknown Balkan woman. Isabelle is in fact less a character and more a spectral presence that haunts Pierre's life. Intrigued by this otherworldly creature, Pierre gives up his privileged existence and enters into a vividly depicted bohemianism that brings about his physical and mental decline.

POLA X prefers to tell its story more through visceral images than dialogue. In fact, the dialogue is deliberately stilted, allowing the film to dip in and out of its basis in Melville's 19th-century novel. So much of the story of Pierre's decline is told through the bucolic idyll of the first half of the film and the brutal squalor he later chooses. This imagery is so strong that even if POLA X feels somewhat too tentative about itself to rank as one of the all-time greatest films, it has haunted this viewer's thoughts since watching it.

Another nice touch of POLA X is the close way in which Carax worked with the composer of the film's score Scott Walker, who was then fresh from his acclaimed album TILT. When Pierre leaves home after meeting Isabelle, he enters into a bizarre community of artists in an industrial setting, who seem to be hiding sinister plans behind their avant-garde work. It is here that Walker's score goes from the subdued strings of the first half of the film into brasher, more aggressive sounds. Carax has set things up so this music is both diegetic and non-diegetic, part of the outside narration of Pierre's psychological decline and contemporary political strife as much as the film's action itself.

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Official Sites:

Atlanta Filmes (Portugal)


France | Switzerland | Germany | Japan



Release Date:

9 October 1999 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Pola X See more »

Filming Locations:

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany See more »


Box Office


FRF71,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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