Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France/West Germany, 1981. Gaumont, Oliane Productions, Marianne Productions, Soma Film Produktion. Original idea by Andrzej Zulawski, Adaptation by Andrzej Zulawski, Frederic Tuten. Cinematography by Bruno Nuytten. Produced by Marie-Laure Reyre. Music by Andrzej Korzynski. Production Design by Holger Gross. Costume Design by Ingrid Zore. Film Editing by Marie-Sophie Dubus, Suzanne Lang-Willar. Cannes Film Festival 1981.
Breaking up is hard to do, and no surprise that a couple going their separate ways leads to the creation of actual monsters in the house. Sam Neill comes home from a business trip to be told by wife Isabelle Adjani that there’s no future for them as a couple. He reacts violently, she becomes unstable, and the temperature increases as the two of them behave in increasingly erratic ways, with murders, mad scenes and, most delightfully, a horrific creature designed by makeup artist Carlo Rambaldi making more frequent appearances. Director Andrzej Zulawski uses standards of the horror genre brilliantly to tell of human passion gone awry, much of his imagery off-putting to a more delicate viewer and his fractured narrative frustrating to anyone who requires more logic than he is willing to provide. The film is the very definition of indulgence, but the humour and eccentricity with which it is told is impossible to resist. Neill and Adjani (who deservedly won the Cesar and a prize at Cannes for her work) are exceptionally energetic in the leads and show no fear of going wherever Zulawski’s charisma wants them to go, while the city of (then West) Berlin amply fills out the requirement as a place whose run-down, empty buildings provide the perfect setting for a relationship between what are essentially emotional zombies.