Sous le Sable (Under the Sand)

Sous le Sable
© Arte France Cinéma / Euro Space
Fidélité Productions / Haut et Court
Distributed by Cinemien for The Netherlands

Marie (Charlotte Rampling) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) are a husband and wife who, after 25 years of marriage, have become inseparable and relaxed in their routine with each other, or at least it would so seem. One day, when they visit the beach near their country house in Les Landes, Jean goes for a swim while Marie sunbathes and he never returns to her side. It is at this point that the private voyage of Marie begins. She cannot come to terms with the thought of losing her husband, whether it be through accidental death, suicide, or desertion.

An intelligent woman and university professor, she obliterates the situation, hoping that denial will make it untrue. (Nevertheless, the subject matter she chooses to discourse upon in the classroom is Virginia Woolf's "The Waves".) When confronted by a new student, who was one of the lifeguards present on the beach that fateful day, she denies having been at that location last summer and tells the boy he must be mistaken. The well-meant attempt of her friend, Amanda (Alexandra Stewart), to introduce her to the bachelor Vincent (Jacques Nolot) and induce her to continue onward with her life only results in increased personal confusion.

One of the most painfully disturbing moments is the confrontation between wife and mother. Suddenly, vengeful streaks are unleashed in a rivalry that most likely had been kept suppressed and remained silent whenever these two women were in the presence of their respective husband and son. On the other hand, it might only be the release of personal tensions and fears which have mounted recently as a result of the suspected death.

It is, of course, always a delight to watch Charlotte Rampling and her face and grace enchant us as we empathetically accompany her on this painful chapter of a woman's life. The understatement with which she conveys every aspect of her dilemma remains the central axis for the entire film.

Director François Ozon, who has previously shown his sharp edge with black humor in the hilarious and dark "SitCom", presents us here with an analysis of absence and emptiness as elements in the turbulent story revealing a woman's desperation when cast into an unexpected world of loss.

An ostrich, as the story goes, hides its head under the sand in order to avoid danger; this adage, in reality, would appear not to be true.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett