16 user 23 critic

Sombre (1998)

Not Rated | | Drama, Horror | 27 January 1999 (France)
A sexually frustrated serial killer takes a liking to a woman he comes across.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marc Barbé Marc Barbé ... Jean
Elina Löwensohn ... Claire
Géraldine Voillat Géraldine Voillat ... Christine
Coralie Coralie ... La première femme
Maxime Mazzolini Maxime Mazzolini ... L'enfant aux yeux bandés
Alexandra Noël Alexandra Noël ... La seconde femme
Annick Lemonnier Annick Lemonnier ... La troisième femme
Sadija Sada Sarcevic Sadija Sada Sarcevic ... La mère de Claire
Lea Civello Lea Civello ... Fille de la boîte de nuit 1
Astrid Combes Astrid Combes ... Fille de la boîte de nuit 2
Sylvie Granato Sylvie Granato ... La quatrième femme
Tony Baillargeat Tony Baillargeat ... Homme du bal 2
Marc Berman Marc Berman ... Homme du bal 1
Martine Vandeville Martine Vandeville ... La femme du HLM
Antoine Debilly Antoine Debilly ... L'enfant du HLM


A car, following the Tour de France. Children screaming in front of the puppet show. Women, often prostitutes, trying to scream as they are being strangled. Then he will meet Claire, the virgin who will give herself to him, and perhaps deliver him from his malediction. Written by Gregoire Dubost <gregoire.dubost@polytechnique.fr>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Horror


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

27 January 1999 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Dunkle Triebe See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR


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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


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Performed by Bauhaus
Courtesy of Bauhaus Music
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User Reviews

An eye for sordid darkness
10 March 2012 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

This was recommended to me as a similar thing to Austrian serial killer film Angst, as subversive horror constructed by the serial eye. Horror that is the unmediated present moment with none of the fictions around it that we use to justify watching.

Now Angst operated a two-fold camera: up close to violence and far away from it as possible, allowing human madness within the framework of an abstract world.

It was a powerful exercise for this reason: this second camera was pivotally ours. How did we handle this view away from violence? Did it provide relief or was it merely a distraction that got in the way of our enjoyment?

This goes the extra mile. It eliminates the latter type of camera, the bird's eye view, that is in essence the spiritual eye that can see far and wide and encompass the world, in doing so eliminates clarity, coherence, sense, centeredness, and solely invests itself in the internal camera intimately capturing motions and landscapes of deranged soul. The effect is uncanny: a patchwork of frantic, jittery, blurred, incomplete, half-visible glimpses of a mind struggling no longer to make sense - as we did in Angst - but to simply exist inside the world it frames and transforms images from.

Naturally the film is French, and can be traced all the way back to the kaleidoscopic motions of L'Herbier and Epstein, back to the 20's when film was still something you engineered for the eye. Photogenie, as Epstein was fond of calling the effect, a world in flux.

The film would be worth watching for just this, justified for just the roaming vision. But we have another effect on top of this, more explicitly self-referential about what it means to want to see. Our man is a puppeteer, the opening scene is presumably one of his shows, coated in darkness, before an audience of screaming children. Then he goes on his raping spree, attracted to sex that invites a prying gaze - one is a stripper, as far as I could make out. The whole is threaded around the Tour of France, a big cycling event that lasts for three weeks. He orbits for some time around people wanting to see, in a sense lusting for spectacle.

We don't though, we don't see. For the most part the film unfolds across twilight hour, our sight cramped by the night. We keep watching though. Worse yet, we keep trying to make out the show's sordid details.

Two soliloquies bookend the claustrophobic tunnel vision, both of them memories. One layers the film as sudden, frightful pain from childhood. The other as another random turn in the random turns of a meaningless world where lovers impulsively check into a hotel in Paris, visiting the city of lights for the first time, and eleven days later the man is simply dead.

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