The ONLY thing I hate about this film is that it’s SO good you have no choice but to talk about it and compliment it like an intellectual, pretentious snob. Critic Stephen Holden (The New York Times) said that ‘The Intruder’ was; a pure immersion in cinema. Beautiful and terrifying in their intensity, the images will make you gasp. Normally that kinda quote makes me roll my eyes and almost not wanna see a film out of spite. But when it comes to ‘The Intruder’, that phrase is such an accurate description that I had to make an exception. It really is a work of art. A cinematic poem (see what I mean? I would never say “cinematic poem” in real life but this film brings that outta me somehow). If you had followed Claire Denis’ work up to that point (2004), you’d know that in terms of dreaminess or making a surreal film, ‘The Intruder’ seems like something she’d been working towards up to that point in her career (in my opinion). Think about it, since ‘The Intruder’ has Denis made a truly surreal film? No. Dreamy films since ‘The Intruder’? Sure. Buts that’s a given with almost anything she does. That’s part of her style. Since then she’s made a documentary (‘Vers Matilde’), ‘35 Shots Of Rum’ and ‘White Material’. It’s like she needed to get this film, a surreal non-linear stream of conscious story, out of her system before going back to her “norm” (and her “norm” is some of the best work in film today). Before ‘The Intruder’ it’s like each film starting with the dreamy elements from ‘Nenette & Boni’ (specifically Boni’s dream sequences), through the dreamy atmosphere of ‘Beau Travail’ and ending with the somewhat free/non-linear plot of ‘Friday Night’ led to the ‘The Intruder’. This is essentially her “Mulholland Drive” (or her “Inland Empire” for those of you who like that film). I make that comparison because just like ‘Mulholland Drive’, there IS a basic plot to ‘The Intruder’ (along with a few subplots that are also pretty easy to figure out), but there’s an even deeper level to the film that has nothing to do with “plot”…
‘The Intruder’ has a few different layers/levels to it:
1. On the surface, you have a film about an older man (“Louie”) in need of a heart transplant who, for whatever reason, seeks one out on the black market (in the form of a mysterious woman played by Katerina Golubeva). And like any film involving organs & the black market (see my Kidney’s on film series) things don’t go according to plan…
2. On the next level, the film is about Louie and his almost non-existent relationship with his adult son (played by Claire Denis-regular Gregoire Colin). Although not much is said about Sidney (and he doesn’t say much in the film either) you do get the feeling that even outside of just being an absentee father, he’s kind of an asshole with very little redeemable qualities. Yet for whatever reason we’re intrigued by him.
3. On the NEXT level, its about Louie trying to fix things from the past involving another son he had years ago in Tahiti that he also abandoned like Sidney, as well as putting things with his life in order, knowing that he may not have a lot of time left. (Once again, like in ‘Beau Travail’, Denis implements old footage of Michel Subor from when he was younger to give a more realistic portrayal of the past)
The FINAL level is a dreamlike world were you question whats real and what isn’t. A world similar to the world of surrealist directors like; David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski or even Tarkosfky (in fact, i included ‘The Intruder’ in my 2nd installment of “The School Of Tarkovsky”). Even Terrance Malick/‘Tree Of Life’ fans would more than likely love this film as well (although there’s no strange voice-over). In fact, what sets ‘The Intruder’ apart from other recent surreal/non-linear films (‘Uncle Boonme…’, ‘George Washington’, ‘Tree Of Life’, etc) is that Denis didn’t need to use any kind of poetic/haunting voice-over narration. The film itself is already haunting & poetic enough. One minute we’re in France, the next minute we’re in South Korea, then Claire takes us to Tahiti with seamless editing and storytelling. If you don’t pay attention to this film, you’ll find yourself going; “whoa, wait a minute, how did we get to this point?” If you haven’t seen this before, this isn’t exactly a film to start watching when you’re tired or in the mood to kinda half-watch a movie while 1/2-surfing the internet. The film does linger a bit, and some might say it could have used some editing (although not me), so be aware. Certain characters in the film may or may not even be real. In fact the movie itself might be one big dream. For a film that I still don’t completely understand or “get” (although i do understand it up to a certain level) ‘The Intruder’ is one of my recent favorites. From Michel Subor’s almost dialogue-less, yet calmly commanding performance, to the soundtrack (courtesy of Tindersticks front man; Stuart Staples) scenes from ‘The Intruder’ randomly pop in my head all the time.
For a director that works on hints & implications (a phrase I’m sure most of you are use to me using when describing Claire Denis’ style by now) this film still fits in with the rest of her work even though its still the most experimental thing she’s ever done…and one of the best as well.