Tuesday, January 26, 2010

7 Days (2010)

7 Days (aka Les 7 Jours du talion) just had its world premiere at 2010’s Sundance Festival and this torture thriller opened to a lot of buzz. I wasn’t expecting much with this film, perhaps just a more artsy version of Saw, but 7 Days explores much more emotional depths with its gritty and melancholy look at vengeance.

Surgeon Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) and wife Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) have a strong, loving relationship and a cute young daughter named Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier). One afternoon, Jasmine goes out to distribute invitations to her upcoming birthday party but never returns home. The frantic parents and police search the nearby neighborhood and soon find the brutalized body of Jasmine, who has been raped and killed. The police soon track down the alleged rapist and killer, Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil), who has a long rap sheet of sexual offences. Bruno is not satisfied with what the police have in store for Lemaire and after a carefully orchestrated plan kidnaps Lemaire as he is transported by police and takes him to a remote cabin. Bruno tortures Lemaire for the seven days that lead up to the date that would have been his daughter’s ninth birthday. As he slowly wrenches the life out of Lemaire, the police, led by Detective Hervé Mercure (Rémy Girard) who has experienced his own family tragedy, try to stop Bruno from becoming the monster he is trying to kill.

7 Days is certainly an affecting piece of cinema, one that will certainly leave viewers stunned and shaken up. It is not, as I first assumed, Saw for the art crowd. First off, it has a stark and cold gray color palette that sets the somber and grim mood of the film and makes it heartbreakingly beautiful. The direction by Daniel Grou is unsettling and unwavering in its look. For example, there is a truly disturbing shot of the lifeless Jasmine that lingers over every spot of blood and every speck of dirt on her brutalized and broken body. It is one of the most horrifying images of a murdered child I’ve ever seen in a film and it makes the viewer terribly angry and hopelessly sad all at once. Grou also lets the camera linger on the tortured body of Lemaire as well as a dead carcass of a deer, and while some shots are drawn out too long (and frustratingly indulgent), for the most part the demented direction of Grou fits the melancholy mood of the story perfectly.

The story, adapted for the screen by Patrick Senécal and based on his book, is certainly nothing new (a parent who will sacrifice everything to see that the murderer and/or rapist of their family member is appropriately punished), but it is the emotional turmoil of the story that kept me watching. The more and more Bruno tortures Lemaire the more and more he himself is turning into the monster he is so desperately trying to punish. Some of the torture is so harsh (sledgehammer to the knee, whipped with chains, a surgery where Lemaire can feel it all even though he is paralyzed, etc.) that I sometimes found myself starting to sympathize with Lemaire, even though he was a pedophile, rapist and murderer. This conflict is also echoed in Bruno, who begins to struggle with the idea of killing Lemaire. Writer Senécal really makes us think about what is right and what is wrong or if there is just gray area that is better left to one’s own interpretation. And, gosh darn it, I like a film that challenges me to think!

The actor who plays Bruno, Claude Legault, does an awe-inspiring job of portraying the conflict mentioned above. The inner turmoil he faces is brought to light by Legault’s subtle but strong performance. I must also commend Fanny Mallette for playing the heartbroken mother, Sylvie. She did a wonderful job of playing the mourning parent who was still strong when her husband abducted the killer and she had to face the police by herself.

As for the film being billed a “torture thriller”, don’t confuse that with the term I so loathe, “torture porn”. 7 Days is not about being exploitative at all, but rather examining the complex emotions and actions of a victim-turned-potential-killer. It is heavy on the emotional drama, which definitely won’t please some horror fans. As mentioned before, gorehounds looking for a cheap thrill will probably be disappointed. 7 Days aims much higher than your standard exploitative horror film and while I like a challenging horror film, some people simply don’t and will be put off by the film’s art house themes. However, if you are looking for a thought-provoking and cringe-inducing film 7 Days may be right up your alley!

And guess what? You can catch 7 Days on video-on-demand as part of the Sundance Selects VOD rollout! Check your local cable provider for availability.

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