I have to admit right up front that my recollections of Clair Denis’s “Bastards” are going to be seriously flawed. Even though this was a film that I was looking forward to, my viewing of the film was less than ideal. It was the last film of the night and I was absolutely exhausted while watching it, so I actually found the film to be very confusing. How confusing you may ask? Well, let’s just say that there was one character that I thought was someone else entirely until the very end of the film, so that should give you some indication of my reliability in regards to reviewing “Bastards”.
The MIFF guide describes “Bastards” like so: “when wealthy patriarch Jacques commits suicide in suspicious circumstances, his family must come together to try to pick up the pieces – and to apportion blame. However as the long-estranged kin unpick the layers of secrecy forced upon them by their father, the stage is set for a showdown that could destroy them all”.
Wow! Reading that just doesn’t ring a bell for me at all. What I do remember about the film was its intense mood and atmosphere that was prevalent from the opening frame, as well as its gorgeous and quite dark cinematography. The film opens with a disturbing image of a young teenage girl wondering aimlessly through the streets totally naked. As the film goes on, this image is returned to and expanded, as the full impact of it gets more revealed. Suffice to say, the story behind this image of the naked girl is a sad and seedy one, and is the main cause behind Jacques suicide.
In my regards to my confusion between two characters, here is what happened. The wife of Jacques asks her brother (who works for the navy) to return home and help her get revenge on the mega-wealthy businessman she believes forced her husband to commit suicide. The brother ends up starting a relationship with the businessman’s wife (as well as spending time with his son) in an attempt to gather evidence and get revenge from within. Through my intense tiredness, I actually confused the sister and the businessman’s wife as being the same person, so for the majority of the film I thought the guy was sleeping with his sister, which I thought was very perverse (yet bold at the same time). It wasn’t until the final five minutes of the film that I realized that the two women were completely different characters, which made me also realize that everything that I thought I had witnessed earlier was completely different in actuality.
From all reports “Bastards” is meant to be an excellent film although it deals with some incredibly dark themes and has a number of disturbing scenes within it. Much has been talked about the film’s controversial and shocking final sequence, although personally I found it not to be. I actually found the scene, no matter how disturbing it is, to be the only logical conclusion and a fitting end. I suppose I may not have been hit with the enormity of the perversion in regards to this scene while I was watching it because at the time I was still coming to terms with the fact that I had confused two characters into one.
Overall, I really cannot give an accurate representation of what “Bastards” was like as a film. Every now and then when you attend a film festival and see numerous films a day, your brain will just shut off sometimes due to extreme tiredness. Sadly this is what happened to me during Clair Denis’s “Bastards”. While I remember that I was impressed with the film’s look and atmosphere, sadly any other details are lacking from my memory. I will definitely try to catch up with this film again at a later date and will attempt to review it properly. Although I cannot remember much about “Bastards” looking at my notes I made in my film festival guide after the screening, I see that I gave the film…..
………..but take that with a grain of salt.