Lights (Feux Rouges)
Directed by Cedric Kahn
Showing at FACT from Friday 22 October
Cedric Kahn’s Simenon adaptation is well-acted and observed and
has atmosphere in spades but sadly loses its way in the final 30 minutes.
(**1/2 out of five)
Antoine and Helene Dunan prepare for a weekend trip to relatives in the
Bosque country, planning to pick up their children who are in a summer
camp in Bordeaux. Tensions arise as they get stuck in a traffic jam, arguing
over the best possible route, and he starts accusing her of neglecting
him and their kids for her career. Stopping several times at bars off
the motorway, Antoine returns to find that she is gone to take the train.
While trying to catch up with her, Antoine gives a lift to a stranger
he has met in a bar before. Soon he is plagued by doubts whether his passenger
may not be a convict on the run.
Adapted from a Georges Simenon novel and underscored by Debussy, Red
Lights initially appears to be showing us the gradual breakdown of a marriage:
Antoine is clearly suspicious of, and irritated by his wife, and Kahn
successfully develops an atmosphere of increasing tension between the
couple who get exasperated by the boredom of the road. With Helene’s
disappearance, the film shifts into thriller territory, adding a sense
of urgency and unease to the events, while expanding on its leitmotif
of Antoine’s self-destruction. This culminates in a gripping, climatic
confrontation in the woods but with half an hour to go, it also leaves
us with an uncomfortably drawn out resolution to the story that negates
the pace and suspense the director had managed to maintain up to that
point. In particular the scene with Antoine’s feverish attempts
to trace his wife’s whereabouts is admittedly effective in conveying
his agony but at the same time it also goes on for a good deal too long.
The ending, too disappoints in that the characters’ recovery from
their ordeal is too smooth and comes too soon to satisfy, let alone to
be credible. One suspects that the film would have benefited from a more
complex and poignant resolution. What we are left with, is a thriller
and morality tale that grips and disappoints in equal measure.