Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As Hollywood cannot resist the feelgood factor, French cinema prides itself on a cynical approach to matters of the heart. Love is a game, with rules and penalties, not a gift-wrapped box of sweeties, guaranteed to last until the sun goes down behind the mountaintops.

L'Enfer is an antidote to romanticism. If anyone still harbours dreams of happyeverafter and remembers the electric thrill of infatuation, please please please don't watch this film. It's a wrist slasher.

There are three sisters and they don't talk to each other. One (Karin Viard) lives alone and, although beautiful in a for-God's-sake-do-something-about-yourself way, appears self-consciously aware that men want to have sex with her. They don't, but that's what she thinks, and it scares her, so she dresses like a librarian and walks fast, just in case a lurking rapist might consider her bait.

Another sister (Emmanuelle Beart) is suffering from the abject paranoia of living with a husband who cheats on her. He is a photographer, wears a black leather jacket and rides an English motorbike. All his models are models. She can't win and she knows it. Result: misery.

The youngest sister (Marie Gillain) is having an affair with her professor at the Sorbonne. He is married with a daughter her age and when he attempts to end it, she goes to pieces. What's worse, the pregnancy test proves positive and she decided to go to his house and confront him in front of his family.

L'Enfer is more than the tale of three desperately unhappy women. They have history. In fact, the reason they are so screwed up goes back to an incident, or rather two incidents, in their past, involving their father, which are deeply distressing.

Why Danic Tanovic's film is not an instant walkout must be attributed to the director's skill, the actors' commitment and the car crash mentality of voyeuristic audiences everywhere.

Love is pain, L'Enfer says, and trust an illusion. If you agree, enter Hell. There are no sweeties.

Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2006
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L'Enfer packshot
The tale of three desperately unhappy sisters.
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Director: Danis Tanovic

Writer: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, based on a story by Krzystof Kieslowski

Starring: Emmanuelle Beart, Karin Viard, Marie Gillain, Guillaume Canet, Jacques Gamblin, Jacques Perrin, Carole Bouquet

Year: 2005

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Italy, Belgium, Japan


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