The Enemy (L’Ennemi) (15)            French Film Festival

Stephan Streker’s engrossing thriller (based, I understand, on a real life case from a few years back) captures the imagination from the start and keeps us guessing even as the final credits roll.

A well-known politician, Louis Durieux (Jeremie Renier) wakes up in his hotel suite after a wild night out with his wife Maeva (Alma Jodorowsky) to find her dead on the bathroom floor. He informs hotel reception she has committed suicide and they call the emergency services. When the police arrive, they cast doubts on his story of suicide, and Durieux finds himself being held as a suspected murderer.

The interrogation does not go well for him – the added difficulty of being a French speaker in a Flemish part of Belgium does nothing to help – and he ends up remanded in custody. Given his high profile, the media are very quickly all over his case, highlighting their tempestuous marriage.

The fact that Durieux claims to have no memory of what did, or did not, happen that night in the hotel makes him guilty in the eyes of many people. His lawyer is left with little to work with, her client cannot, or simply will not, confirm or deny committing murder, merely insisting that he loved his wife and would never have killed her.

So he sits in jail while his case is argued both in the courts and in the press. We are given glimpses of what occurred earlier in the evening, flashbacks of a night of drunken excess, too flimsy to either exonerate or convict him. Streker manages these, and indeed the entire situation, well, feeding us little snippets of information. Never enough, however, to allow us to reach any conclusion as to whether the verdict should be guilt or innocence.

Renier plays Durieux with just enough deviousness to allow us to believe he carries a guilty conscience, but is this merely the guilt of not being in a position to prevent her from taking her own life, or is it more sinister?

Another very impressive film in what has been an exceptionally fine festival.

Jim Welsh

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