Vincent Must Die
It is a Saturday and the start of a very special weekend because the MAMI film festival(Mumbai Film Festival) is underway and our coverage for the same has begun with a bang. With so many new films to watch across the globe over the next 10 days, here we go! On the MAMI opening night, the film that we have covered is the French film Vincent Must Die which had previously premiered at Cannes earlier this year. With little to no information about the film, I went into the film completely blind knowing just the fact that films from Europe are essentially an acquired taste, and thry should be watched with an open mind. So then is Vincent Must Die worth your time, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Vincent Must Die follows the story of Vincent who has been living his normal mundane life until he is attacked for no apparent reason one day. Soon he realises that the only way for him to survive is to adapt to the situation. The story is an absurdist drama written with a lot of wit that takes the concept of an epidemic ‘zombie’ outbreak, and turns it on its head. There are a lot of grey shades to the tale that doesn’t provide an easy explanation to the ongoing proceedings. In fact, a lot of it is left to the interpretation of the viewer as to why things stand the way they are. But the writers are cautious of lacing the events with strong bouts of humour that absolutely hit home. The screenplay standing at a taut runtime of a 107 minutes does have its moments to shine. There are several thrilling moments along the way while balancing the acts of stillness in the drama.
The drama opens with the introduction of the protagonist working in a corporate with an intern who he is freshly introduced to, until that intern just randomly attacks him. There is a streak of comedy explored in this seemingly strayed incident with an almost immediate followup, this time featuring his project manager. The events start off as being funny, for the sheer randomness with which they unfold wherein you would find yourself holding your breath, only to release it with a dose of laughter. And this is what sets the tone of the drama to follow.
The proceedings move at a slow but steady pace with all its coherence intact. With one event leading to another, your guard is always up although you are left scratching on what could possibly be the cause of this randomness. And this is where the writers just throw in a little hint of an epidemic outbreak which might be causing the issue. But the tension built up is pretty intense with some good use of the atmospherics including some unabashed action set pieces featuring the attacks. You are invested in the journey of the protagonist while silently rooting for his safety.
One criticism that I had about the film was it did get quite repetitive in the middle especially with the introduction of the love story that really ought to have been heartfelt, given its pay-off at the end. Yet, the events around it featuring a website and an ‘invisible helper’ definitely keeps you engaged until the very end. The final act though is left open to interpretation while acting as a spiritual prequel to the film Bird Box. The twist of fate at the end did raise a few questions and my interpretation was that there was no escaping the epidemic while the only possible solutions were the ones shown at the end of the film. Overall, the screenplay does manage to engage you with frequent bouts of humour coupled with a tense atmosphere which was created.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and adequate to the flow of the drama. The BGM is subtle while never overpowering the writing in anyway. The cinematography featuring some wide shots beautifully capture the stillness of the drama while balancing it with bouts of chaos featuring the frames of the attacks, including the disgusting septic tank scene. The editing is sharp and crisp. Director Stephan Castang does take the traditional ‘zombie’ template, only to turn it on its head! The strength of the drama lies in its uncertainty and absurdity that the director exploits wonderfully through some tense moments right throughout. The direction was pretty good overall.
The performances are quite impressive by all actors. The two standout performers are Vimala Pons and Karim Leklou who essay the roles of Margaux and Vincent. The former has a charming personality onscreen that often is cut short by bouts of wickedness to her character while being completely oblivious to the situation. The latter is the soul of the film wherein the world unfolds through his gaze. And his character with keep you on tenterhooks right throughout. He was absolutely brilliant in the film.
As a part of our MAMI coverage, Vincent Must Die is a quirky drama packaged as an absurdist thriller which is witty in its writing while giving the ‘Zombie’ template a fresh twist. Playing at MAMI.