Berlin Diary 7: Teen trauma. Steven Soderbergh’s stalker thriller. And time passages.

Posted on February 22, 2018


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The French drama, Prénom: Mathieu (First Name: Mathieu), lasts just 63 minutes, and it packs an awful lot in. Awful being the key word. Maxime Gorbatchevsky plays 17-year-old Mathieu, who, at the beginning of the film, is raped by a serial offender. The resulting story could be told in a number of ways. As an investigation. As a family drama, detailing the behaviours of Mathieu’s parents, and especially his brother, Mica (Mickael Ammann), who doesn’t know how to be around Mathieu anymore and prefers to lock himself in his bedroom with the walkman for company. (Yes, walkman. Prénom: Mathieu is set in the 1980s.) Or we could see how Mathieu’s relationship with his girlfriend unfolds, given that the night he was brutalised was the night he was planning to have sex with her for the first time. It can’t be easy for a teenager, looking forward to making love and ending up being raped by a man.

Lionel Baier’s film tackles bits of everything, but stays focused on Mathieu’s internal torment. It’s no accident that the first time we see him, it’s a tight close-up of him in the ICU, his head swathed in bandages. It feels like we are being invited to enter his head, invade his consciousness — for the ghastly event is the only thing on his mind. Even the investigation is handled solely from Mathieu’s viewpoint. We don’t see the detectives, say, scouring the area for clues. We see them with Mathieu, pressing him to remember even more so that they can put together an identikit picture. This is a quiet, moving film, something like an Alice Munro short story, tinged with an undercurrent of loss. “When you catch the guy, I want to talk to him,” Mathieu tells the detectives. We are left with the question, “Does that ever help?”

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Posted in: Cinema: Foreign