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Sombre (1998)

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 ... See full summary »

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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


See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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


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User Reviews

Is She Really Going Out With Him?
9 May 2010 | by loganx-2See all my reviews

Nauseating it is but, genuinely striking film making at work, both disorientating and disturbing in equal measure. If nothing else Grandrieux like Von Treir's "Antichrist" raises the bar for horror films here, but doesn't rely on "gore" and shock the way VT did, instead generating fear from a soundtrack of guttural human cries, moans, noises, and silences, and bringing us unbearably close to characters and sensations we desperately and instinctively want to avoid.

I still think the combination of fairy tale logic into such a brutal close focus doesn't gel as much as Grandieux believes it does, but there is something to be said for the notion that complete sentimentality and utter depravity are closer than they appear. I felt like an insect watching this movie, pinned to a wall of sounds and images. Not a good feeling, but horror films are not supposed to create good feelings are they. What's most horrifying about this film is it's lack of any moral aim, for all there terrors horror films do usually show the triumph of a "final girl" or the humanity of a monster, but like "The Descent" Grandrieux's universe is an unstable chaos of actions, desires, and terrors, but more so because even the logical rules of cause and effect, are no good here (like Funny Games' remote control scene but stronger and stranger), in one scene Claire and Christine escape Jean, only to have him magically appear in front of their car. Next cut he has them in his hotel, seemingly hypnotized as he for lack of a better word...sniffs their fear.

What's so violating about a scene like this is not the violation that goes on within it, but the breaking of narrative rules that we depend on in a film like this, for respite, the chance to escape to breath. Sombre is suffocating, and makes even "love" itself, normally a redeeming force, a horror to behold.

My first impression of Claire's attraction to Jean was echoing the Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?". I felt not the usual jealously one feels when the object of your affection is publicly affectionate to the worst possible kind of person (or a decent person who is transformed into a monstrous caricature through sheer force of jealously alone), but one of panic. She does not know what she is getting into but we (the audience) do, having witnessed albeit elliptically at times Jeans earlier crimes. Eventually she does know who and what Jean is after he attacks her sister, but her attraction seems to intensify as our repulsion grows, and at first I felt this as a failure of understanding character development (no rational human being would willingly go back to THAT). But this was a failure more on my part than the films.

I was expecting realism, when right from the beginning the film announces itself as not existing in a stable mental landscape of coherent naturalism. Our first images are a boy blindfolded in a field feeling his way in the air, then abruptly the sounds of children laughing like hyenas as they watch a Punch And Judy show.The hand-held camera at times jostles around with Jean's or a detached third party pov and at others holds itself sustaining agonizing close ups, all to create it's own kind of rationality(something after watching more Guy Maddin and Mark Rappaport I find a little easier to understand or at least accept).

Claire and Jean's relationship is non-existent guided by the films only symbolic logic(chance or reason/hope), a prop like the puppets in Punch And Judy, but where Mister Punch, would kill his wife, his family, his jailers, and in some versions even Death and The Devil himself, and do so with a smile, Jean wrestles with his demons which are indistinguishable from his desires, and suffers for them. The film's final shots of Jean in the woods recall Lon Chaney Jr's. performance as "The Wolfman"(1941), and all the tragedy, doom, and masculine anxiety there in. In the days of 'Dexter" where serial killers can be heroes too, were all aware that wolves can wear human skin, and men don't need to transform into monsters to make beasts of themselves.

In Fellini's "La Strada" where a lovely clownish child-woman is hopelessly and helplessly in love with a brutish strong man who rapes, torments, and abandons her, we are forced to see "love" as a beastly thing which traps our heroin from the rational action of escape. But it's this break with realism and into the metaphorical which freed Fellini from the other Italian filmmakers of the day and allowed him to progress into his trademark oneiric style, and it's also what gives "La Strada" it's emotional impact, which has to be weighed symbolically not literally. "Sombre" in many ways follows suit, but with more neo-Gothic, and new french extremist aesthetics.

"Sombre" is a difficult film, one which even the most willing to attempt to understand it, will not enjoy the first, second, or maybe any times watching it. I can't say I enjoyed it. I'm not gonna put this on during rainy day like "Slim Sussie" or "Monster Squad", but if I had a friend over who told me they were in the mood for a horror movie, something actually scary (a rarity) I would suggest this.

"...if my eyes don't deceive me, There's something going wrong around here..." -Joe Jackson

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