The narrative device of a person vanishing into thin air, and the complex existential reactions evoked in those around them, has powerful motifs in various films – from L’Avventura and Picnic at Hanging Rock to A Man Vanishes and Missing to even Loveless. In Under the Sand François Ozon, too, made striking use of this device for a meditation on loss, grief, mortality, the inability to let-go and therefore being stuck in an existential flux. The happy married middle-aged couple of Marie (Charlotte Rampling), a professor of English Literature in Paris, and Jean (Bruno Cremer), while during their customary summer vacation, faces an unfortunate turn of events when he decides to go for a swim in the sea only never to return. While conjectures range from accident to suicide, Marie finds herself unable to resign to that fact her husband has probably died – even if, ironically, she appears to be making incremental adjustments to her life by embarking on an affair with another man (Jacques Nolot). From a thematic standpoint the film reminded of Kieslowski’s Blue – however, while in the latter the wife had a chance for emotional catharsis because of the incontrovertible fact that her husband has died, here she seems destined to be forever locked in a psychological space which has simply shut out the loss. Charlotte Rampling gave a magnificently restrained turn in capturing how Marie’s seemingly vivacious external façade becomes a camouflage for her inner crisis and her steadfast refusal to find closure. The elegiac final shot, where she literally runs in quest of the mirage that she’s created for herself, against the washed-out landscape straight out of a Monet painting, was both poignant and haunting.
Director: Francois Ozon
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Marital Drama