Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Page Turner

With films, as with books, variety is good, and I’ve watched a very varied group of movies lately. The Page Turner, directed by Denis Dercourt in 2006, is the only one with sub-titles, and certainly the most under-stated. But the build-up of tension is highly effective, resulting in one of the most disturbing psychological suspense movies I’ve seen in a long time.

The basic set-up is this. Young Melanie, daughter of a butcher, has her heart set on a career as a pianist. But at an important examination, her concentration is disturbed when one of the assessors, herself a successful pianist, unpardonably allows an autograph-hunter to disturb the playing. The girl’s dreams are ruined as a result.

We next encounter her a few years later, working as an intern for a top lawyer. She manoeuvres a short-term assignment to look after the lawyer’s young son, himself a would-be pianist. When it turns out that the lawyer’s wife is the woman who wrecked her ambitions, it becomes apparent that Melanie is bent on revenge.

There are all kinds of hints as to the horrors that may or may not unfold. Will the boy be drowned, will his favourite pet have its throat cut? Will Melanie seduce the lawyer, or his wife? In fact, the most dramatic moment of violence in the whole film is unexpected and cleverly in keeping with Dercourt’s method of defying expectations.

Music plays a huge part in the creation of a chilling atmosphere and the concept of the intense relationship between a pianist and the person who turns the pages of sheet music for her is brilliantly exploited. If it’s whiz-bang action you want, The Bourne Identity is recommended. But I liked the subtlety of The Page Turner just as much.

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