Stanislas Graff is the President of a French industrial conglomerate. He has a beautiful wife, a beautiful house and a beautiful car. He hunts with the cream of French society and is invited on trade missions with the President of the Republic. And then, one day, Stanislas Graff is kidnapped, and the facade cracks when his family tries to raise the €50m ransom. They discover the apartment he has kept for fifteen years, the string of affairs, and - most damning - the heavy gambling debts. The company, once keen to stake their man, now backs away. In the midst of a global recession, where the unions chafe at the bosses' bonuses, they cannot be seen to bail out at playboy President whose gambling debts have presumably resulted in the kidnapping.
Now, you can see what's wrong with RAPT. It's a thriller, and yet in describing the main outline of the plot I haven't given away anything that the movie itself doesn't give away inside the first fifteen minutes of its two hour run-time. There is, simply put, no dramatic tension in the movie. Even a scene in which Stanislas has his finger cut off isn't as gruesome or shocking as it should be. I found my attention wandering. Admiring Mrs Graff's elegant clothes, and the beautiful lampshades in the apartment, and the modernist kettle in the mistress' apartment. That can't be good - can it? I mean, not when our protagonist is being kept, blind-folded and manacled in a grotto, with his finger cut off. On two occasions, I thought I could scent a plot twist - or at least a change of direction into something that could've been more interesting. Maybe the protagonist had been stitched up? Maybe dark forces were painting him to be a playboy gambler in order to seal his fate? Or maybe he was paying off the kidnappers himself to pay off the gambling debts?
I'm not sure why this film has garnered so much critical acclaim. To be sure, it is beautifully produced and photographed. I certainly fell in love with the apartment. And the acting is, given the constraints of the script, very good. Yvan Attal (THE SNAKE, LEAVING) plays Stanislas Graff with a cold intensity; Anne Consigny (THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY) is noble and fragile as his wife; and Andre Marcon (THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN) is particularly authentic as the ruthlessly efficient COO.
But, ultimately, one has to ask, what is this film for? Does it work as a thriller? No. But, I am told, it's not a thriller. It's merely using the structure of a thriller to explore the power structures in French society and to show psychologically what happens to a man in this situation. But if that's the case why don't they spend more time exploring the relationship between Stanislas and his Board? And why don't we get more of Stanislas' reactions through the kidnapping? Most puzzling of all, and here I will try to be oblique, is the final scene. The scene isn't actually puzzling. In fact, I'd seen it coming since it was obviously set up half an hour before hand. And I was pissed off it was left to the end when the script couldn't deal with it. But you have a film reviewer I really respect - Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian - calling it a master-stroke. Strange.
RAPT was released in France and Belgium last winter and is currently on release in the UK. It was nominated for four Cesar Awards (the French Oscars) but was beaten by UN PROPHET in each category.
Additional tags: Lucas Belvaux, Andre Marcon, Francoise Fabian, Alex Descas, Maxime Lefrancois, Pierre Millon, Danielle Anezin, Frederique Belvaux
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