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Confidences trop intimes
(Intimate Strangers)
Patrice Leconte


Ruth Sheldon

'If psychoanalysis should teach you one thing, it's that you can't master everything' proclaims the self-assured psychiatrist Dr Monnier over a leisurely lunch, before manipulatively 'suggesting' that his unassertive dining companion pick up the tab for the 'free' consultation. As we increasingly realise, the doctor is expert at transforming his apparent relinquishment of control into an exertion of power, and in doing so he embodies the dialectic which preoccupies Patrice Leconte's film.

Intimate Strangers is rooted in the simplest of premises; Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), intending to visit Dr Monnier, accidently knocks on the door down the hall and so confesses her most intimate secrets to the stunned and captivated financial adviser, William (Fabrice Luchini). The film intimately portrays the twists and turns of the unlikely relationship that develops between these characters, providing an enduring meditation on the tension between the desire for omnipotence and the seductiveness of mystery.

The seemingly unbelievable mistaken identity scenario works because, almost immediately, we realise that Anna's 'accident' may be nothing of the kind. Anna claims that William's passive acceptance of his mistaken identity is a violation, yet her confession is empowering, seductive and enables her to create herself as the unobtainable object of William's longing gaze. As the dynamic of this relationship unfolds, we come to recognise the mystery and moral ambiguity of both these characters; Anna may be a deluded manipulater or a vulnerable, lonely victim. Is William a potential romantic hero or a repressed and creepy potential stalker?

However, this tension is lost when we stray from William's claustrophobic office, and reality as seen through the eyes of the relationship it contains. Anna and William's attempt to 'cut the cord' is not portrayed with the same uneasy ambiguity as the rest of their relationship. Disappointingly, this fascinating and uncomfortable relationship threatens to recede into a sentimental love story, as if Leconte is finally too unsure of our capacity for uncertainty and, unable to contain the mystery of his characters any longer, attempts to master them.

 
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