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L'Enfer Review

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Sisters Sophie (Béart), Celine (Viard) and Anne (Gillain) are haunted by the disgrace and death of their accused paedophile father, and have trouble with their personal relationships. Celine, the only sister who visits their invalid mother (Bouquet), is a

★★★★★

Following Tom Tykwer’s Heaven, this is the second part in a tryptich — with Purgatory to come — based on scenarios by the late Krzystof Kieslowski. Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land) takes over as director, and has the benefit not only of Kieslowski’s subtle, intricate plot-strands, but a cast of ravishingly depressed French actresses (few arthouse hits boast two Bond girls — Carole Bouquet and Maryam d’Abo) who elegantly express angst with a shrug or a glance.

Though the structure is complicated, as the threads which connect these people become apparent, the actual stories are a little too familiar. Only Karin Viard’s gentle, ultimately embarrassing surrender to a stalker who doesn’t want what she thinks he does offers much that’s fresh.

Otherwise, jealous Emmanuelle Béart’s realisation that her husband is cheating on her, and student Marie Gillain’s affair with her married father-figure professor seem like stock situations only given weight by the performances.

Possibly, Kieslowski meant that hell was being trapped in a clichéd ‘bad affair’ with no way out — though the last reel, which depends on a malign turn from Bouquet, is more unsettling, making the great heroic Frenchwoman’s statement, “Je ne regrette rien,” into something that’ll send you out with an intellectual chill.

Despite the overfamiliar situations, this is absorbing, unsettling drama, and a masterclass of French fine acting.

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