IFFR Review: Suzanna Andler

DIRECTED BY: Benoît Jacquot

STARRING: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Niels Schneider, Nathan Willocks, Julia Roy and Sandrine Rivet

 

SYNOPSIS

Trapped in marriage to a wealthy, unfaithful businessman, a middle aged mother takes a break and goes with her young lover to a Riviera beach house where she plans a family vacation for the summer.

Suzanna Andler is the portrait of a woman trapped in her marriage to a wealthy, unfaithful businessman in the 1960s. She must choose between her conventional destiny as a wife and mother, and her freedom, embodied by her young lover.

Suzanna Andler is a film adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s play of the same name, adapted and directed by Benoît Jacquot. The film focuses on millionaire wife Suzanna Andler, who looks set to acquire a villa on the French Riviera as a family summer home. Along with her however is her younger lover Michel, away from prying eyes and especially her unfaithful husband Jean. While at the villa, Suzanna begins to ponder where she wants her life to go, not just between Jean and Michel, but for herself.

 

The film opens with Suzanna spending time in the beach house, contemplating over whether to rent it or not, pondering over whether to pay it to which her young lover Michel tells her that if she has to think about it, she can afford it. This is where Suzanna finds herself in a purgatory state of life where she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, as she discusses her husbands infidelities with her lover, while Michel begins to question whether there is a long-term relationship between him, when he states to her that people have questioned whether she knew about the list of affairs her husband’s had. With that, the film relies on a heavy amount of dialogue as we follow Suzanna throughout her day within this potential holiday home, speaking Michel, awaiting a phonecall from Jean, while also taking a brief rest bite outside along the beach to speak with Monique about Michel and Jean. With Jacquot’s direction, there’s a lot of long takes, with the camera circling around the space within the room as well as around the camera, and while the characters appear to be speaking open and honesty with each other, you’re still trying to figure out with their facial expressions whether they’re being earnest in what they’re saying, with some nice cinematography work by Christophe Beaucarne.

 

With the film well shot, and with an hour and a half runtime, unfortunately I started to feel the runtime of the film as the way the script is executed here along with the filmmaking make the film feel rather slow and repetitious. I’m not familiar with the play, but within the screenplay here it has interesting arcs to handle, especially with how (or even if) Suzanna can break free from this period of existential crisis she finds herself in, living a life devoid feeling a genuine connection to anyone, yet it’s executive in a way without giving you a sense of emotion to care. For example, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Niels Schneider have good chemistry together and do provide decent performances here, but their scenes are filled with heavy amounts of dialogue yet there doesn’t feel to to be any weight or emotion to the words or really having us care about them or their affair. There’s also a certain scene that comes up in the final act that I won’t spoil, but it didn’t work for me.

 

VERDICT

Though it’s worth highlighting Gainsbourg’s performance, Jacquot’s direction and Beaucarne’s cinematography, none of it really gives Suzanna Andler life to recommend to others. 

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