Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A fortysomething philosophy teacher is driven to the brink of insanity by desire for a girl half his age. Not since Oshima's Ai No Corrida has sexual obsession been so vividly portrayed on screen. Fraught with anguish, the film is enhanced by uninhibited performances of an exceptional nature from Charles Berling and Sophie Guilemin.

What drives him crazy is that he has her, but cannot possess her. Rather than a love story, this is war. He fights the devils inside himself, as well as beating up on jealousy for the time she spends away from him. He needs to devour her, own her, anticipate her every movement. She is uncommunicative, uncomplicated ("You always ask about my thoughts and feelings. I don't know what to say."), secure in the knowledge that who she is has less validity that what she does.

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Cedric Kahn has come close to understanding the psyche of a rapist, not that this is what L'Ennui is about, exactly. As the man is tormented by the girl's inability to respond emotionally in the way he wants, he becomes more violent and desperate.

This is a film about power. The girl's simplicity is her strength. She demands nothing of him. He wants everything from her. His self-absorption, insistence on possession and single-minded pursuit of an inexplicable, exclusive devotion that has more to do with something inside his head than sex-on-tap for the purpose of mutual satisfaction. The film cuts deep. There are times when its intensity is hard to bear.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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L'Ennui packshot
A schoolteacher becomes obssessed with a woman half his age.
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Director: Cedric Khan

Writer: Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, Cedric Khan, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia

Starring: Charles Berling, Sophie Guilemin, Arielle Dombisle, Robert Kramer, Alice Grey, Maurice Antoni, Tom Ouedraogo

Year: 1998

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France


EIFF 1999

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