Reviewed by: Chris

Have you ever opened your eyes and felt like death warmed up? Peter de Wit has.

He is in a body bag in the cold room of a morgue.

Copy picture

He comes to his senses, persuades the night attendant to give him some clothes (by whacking him on the head with radio), then steals a wallet and new identity out of the Dead Bodies' Property tray.

It is the most striking opening scene I've come across all year. Arno carries it off with such conviction, power, aplomb and momentum that I promise I will never take dead people at face value again. And I have scarcely recovered my upright posture in my seat, when we meet a sexy, neurotic artist who has totally lost her memory. Before you can say, 'wrap me in tinfoil and take the pins out', the two of them are embarking on a fantasy-character life-on-the-run - from themselves. Sleeping Beauty's snow-clad castle is not far away...

Komma buffets you about in fantastic scenes that are unnervingly grounded in reality. Artist Lucie obviously doesn't know who she is and con-artist Peter doesn't want to. He tells her that he's her ex (quick-thinking bastard!), and that will do for now. The castle actually exists - in a jigsaw she almost completed, and also as Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (Disney's architectural muse). Peter takes her snow-plodding and castle-hunting to fulfil her dream - Bavaria - although she seems ungratefully less than enthusiastic. "What are you doing?" she asks as he puts her boots on. "I'm kidnapping you," he smiles back.

I am still trying to work out what getting wrapped up in tinfoil for the acupuncture session was all about. And Peter says he's Swedish when in fact he's Flemish, which involves a subtle, hidden pun on the title of the movie.

In the briefest of pauses, Peter has been running from too many stories in his head. Lucie has nothing left and just wants her old memory back. Then there is her aristocratic mother who is not averse to the odd swig of Jack Daniels in a search for dirt. And just wait for the weird Chinese restaurant guitarist... They are like people whom someone let out of Tarantino's locked cellar.

For all its larger-than-life audaciousness, the most unbelievable thing about Komma is ultimately that it is only the first feature of talented director Martine Doyen. The characters are a kick to the stomach. The photography echoes Kubrick. The only weakness is that, for such an impressive hour and a half, we are keyed up to expect an explosive ending, rather than one that simply underlines the main storyline and key concepts (which, amazingly, I was still trying to figure out).

So as the credits roll up, you might like to amuse yourself by asking things like, how did Peter 'die'? and how did Lucie lose her memory? (There are plenty of clues, although I'm a bit slow and had to email Doyen for the answers, which she very kindly provided).

Even the genre is in doubt until minutes before the end. Which way will it go? Is Peter a criminal? (He did dig up a suspicious looking stash of cash). Has he come back from the dead? Or will the storyteller suspend us back in reality? It's certainly an entertaining, if dangerous, way to spend yourmiddle age.

Komma will make you gasp. Just be thankful if, at the end, you are still breathing normally.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2007
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Komma packshot
Taking on the identity of a dead man, a dangerous stranger inveigles himself into the life of an amnesiac woman.

Director: Martine Doyen

Writer: Martine Doyen, Valérie Lemaître

Starring: Arno Hintjens, Valérie Lemaître, Edith Scob

Year: 2006

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2007

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