Germany in the 1970s. Whilst waiting for his girlfriend, a young student, Franz, allows himself to be picked up by 50-year old businessman, Léopold. In his apartment, Léopold provokes Franz into revealing his homosexual experiences and soon manages to seduce him. Six months later, Frantz has moved in with Léopold and they appear to live as an ordinary married couple. The strain is beginning to show, however, and after a row Frantz threatens to leave. Whilst Léopold is away, Frantz is visited by his former girlfriend, Anna, and their romance is soon rekindled. Before the two lovers can escape, Léopold returns and his charms persuade Anna to stay. Léopold's ex-lover Vera then makes an unexpected appearance and the menagerie is complete...Written by
A dark psychological exploration of the most base, and destructive, elements of human relations.
Based on the Fassbinder play, Water Drops on Burning Rocks is an acutely observed exploration of relationships, successfully mixing burlesque absurdity with grim truths to create an enjoyable and insightful film.
The film's characters revolve around the life and whims of Leopald (Bernard Giraudeau), an ageing swinger whose laissez-faire suavity seduces the callow Franz (Malik Zidi). By the beginning of Act II, the latter's boyish confidence has been replaced with the willingness to selflessly submit himself to the whims of his irritable older lover. With the arrival of Anna (Ludivine Sagnier), Franz's subservient fiance, and Vera (Anna Levine), Leopald's former partner, the latter's apartment becomes the home to both farce and tragedy, as desires, attachments and caprices play themselves out in a confinement from which there is no escape. Ozon's consummate direction and the 1970's setting give the film and ostensible gloss which makes its underlying darkness even more striking. This is no less aided by the effortless confidence exuded by Giraudeau and the desperate neediness that is excellently portrayed by his three lovers. What makes Water Drops on Burning Rocks a memorable work is the power of its insights and the originality of their portrayal; it is a film whose exterior is humorous and playful but whose interior contains a bleak vision, in which relationships mean little more than a repetitive vacuum of need, where libidos and routine hold more weight than deep affection or care.
A finely crafted examination of the traits that can be most destructive and tawdry in relationships, Water Drops on Burning Rocks is saved from being dogmatic or overwhelming by the subtlety and wit employed by Ozon and his cast. It is an example of understated film-making that conveys real insight on a subject that has been much maligned in other films, such as the appalling Romance. Highly recommended to those who wish to a covertly intelligent, beguiling work.
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