Also in Competition at the Berlinale is this fascinating film about an 18 year old girl, Gaelle, who was kidnapped eight years ago and kept locked away by Vincent her captor. Suddenly Vincent releases Gaelle and she has to learn to deal with the real world and returning to her family and normal life after such an experience. Surprisingly, the place she is sent to to recover has many similarities to when she was with Vincent. The story is told in a fragmented non-linear fashion, so that we see what Gaelle is going through today and what she went through with Vincent, who she developed a dependant and close relationship with.
This topic immediately brings to mind real-life cases such as Austrian Natascha Kampusch, who escaped after being held captive for eight years, and Elisabeth Fritzl, who was locked away by her father for over two decades and gave birth to seven of his children. Even though this topic is extremely disturbing , the film never really feels that disturbing, which is perhaps the most disturbing thing! I expected a really harrowing film, but it doesn’t focus on captor Vincent enough and the relationship that Gaelle and he form is not explored thoroughly. However, this is still a solidly engaging film.
Agathe Bonitzer is outstanding as Gaelle who is an intelligent and feisty prisoner. The actresses face is so unique and versatile making her very watchable. Reda Kateb plays a restrained Vincent who occasionally loses it and Noémie Lvovsky brilliantly plays Gaelle’s mother, who still sees her daughter as the little girl she once was. The film covers a fascinating subject matter in a subtle way rather than being outlandishly shocking. I did find the ending a let-down though and it therefore left me feeling unsure about the film as a whole.
There are some surprising ‘twists’ but the psychological motives of Vincent are never satisfactorily explored. The electronic music sometimes works but often distracts from the story. There is no doubt that there is a truly enthralling story here, with some great acting and a gradual revealing study but not quite enough examination. The parallels between the psychiatric home and the basement where Gaelle was held captive seem to be much more the focus of the film and how Gaelle adapts, but due to the flashbacks there is not enough time to really explore much.
A Moi Seule is an interesting film which seems to have plenty to say but doesn’t quite succeed in saying it.
Director: Frédéric Videau
Writer: Frédéric Videau
Stars: Agathe Bonitzer, Reda Kateb and Hélène Fillières
Runtime: 91 mins