Dir: Chantal Akerman. France. 108 mins.
Prod cos: Gemini Films - Arte France Cinema. Int'l sales: Gemini Films. Exec producer: Paolo Branco. Scr: Akerman and Eric de Kuyper, freely inspired by Marcel Proust's La Prisonniere. DoP: Sabine Lancelin. Ed: Claire Atherton. Prod des: Christian Marti. Main cast: Stanislas Merhar, Sylvie Testud, Olivia Bonamy, Liliane Rovere, Francoise Bertin
Paolo Branco, the indefatigable producer who took a chance on Marcel Proust and came up with the international arthouse sleeper, Time Regained, is also the man behind the latest effort by prestigious Belgian indie Chantal Akerman. The Captive is a free, modernised take on La Prisonniere, the fifth part of Proust's epic In Search Of Lost Time. Though literary-minded filmgoers may consider this Wasted Time, Akerman's slow, sleek and furiously dispassionate drama of obsessive sexual jealousy will no doubt make its way in indie circuits and festivals.
Akerman has flirted in the past with more "classical" genres (including the musical comedy) and The Captive seems an uneasy truce between her opaque minimalist manner and more audience-friendly narrative. With the basic plot provided by Proust, Akerman has a solid dramatic foundation with which to work, but she so ritualises the drama to the point of abstraction that the situations are emptied of their emotional and erotic impact.
Updated to modern-day Paris, The Captive deals with a wealthy young idler (Merhar) whose principal activity seems to be spying on his lover (Testud). He lodges her in a room in his sprawling flat, where he can keep an eye on her. When she goes out, he has her accompanied by a girlfriend (Bonamy) though he often prefers to tail her himself. Suspecting her of infidelities with other women, he harasses her incessantly with questions only to receive evasive answers. His mounting frustration, and her perpetual evasiveness and lies, lead to tragedy.
Though tedium finally prevails in the long run (and only Testud manages to suggest her character has any kind of an inner life), Akerman produces some hauntingly suggestive moments - a sequence in which the couple takes separate baths on either side of a translucent glass partition, and a scene in which Testud, standing at her balcony, tries to sing along with a more vocally-gifted neighbour across the street.