Starring: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Louise Bourgoin, Pauline Etienne, Melvil Popaud
Young lovers Gaspard (Leprince-Ringuet) and Marion (Etienne) are enjoying summer in the south of France when they stumble upon a lost cell phone. Intrigued by some of the text messages on the phone, they decide to secretly track down its owner. What begins as a seemingly harmless game takes a dark turn when they find a man dead in an exhaust fume filled car, the victim of what appears to be a bizarre suicide pact. Next to him is an unconscious girl, Audrey (Bourgoin).
Several days later, Gaspard coincidentally runs into Audrey at the apartment of a local drug dealer and immediately becomes obsessed by this beautiful and enigmatic woman. His fixation leads him into a dangerously addictive online role-playing video game, Black Hole, in which he sets about seeking out Audrey’s ‘avatar’, Sam, a fetishistic nightclub singer who lures victims in the virtual world and seduces them into committing suicide with her. But Gaspard soon discovers that for Audrey/Sam the line between fantasy and reality is rapidly disappearing.
is a fairly poignant story that deals with our fascination with, not only social networks and online gaming, but the old classics like sex and death. In truth Black Heaven is also a coming of age drama that deals with the loss of innocence and how the main character, Gaspard, is brutally shown the reality of life. It’s a relatively intelligent movie as long as you ignore some obvious flaws in the plot. It’s a slow burner, and relies much on atmosphere over actual plot. For that reason, I can understand the references to David Lynch in the publicity, but Lynch has more of a handle on how atmosphere can push the plot along and enhance. He’s one of a kind after all, and most emulations of his style tend to come across as forced and false.
Subjects such as anonymity on the net and how one can pretend to be another person through using avatars in a game like Second Life are only superficially touched upon. The scenes between Gaspard and Marion are far more convincing than those between Gaspard and Audrey. It’s almost as if the director wants to blur the lines between fantasy and reality in those scenes, indicating Gaspard’s futile interest. Black Heaven is one of those films that asks a lot of its audience, to fill in the blanks where the screenplay fails to address situations. My main example is when Sam asks Gaspard to hurt his partner. Gaspard effectively tells Marion that she is unexciting and ordinary. Instead of showing us a devastated Marion with her emotions in turmoil, the film chooses to ignore it and assume that the audience will know how she must feel.
The animated scenes depicting the “Black Hole” game are both effective and atmospheric. Unfortunately, we never get to know what the true nature of the game is and are left wondering if it’s a Second Life style game or a dating website with a twist. When Sam sings in club Heaven, I was reminded of the Club Silencio scene in David Lynch’s movie, Mulholland Drive . I doubt it was a coincidence. Marchand allows the camera POV to enter the game but we are always reminded that Gaspard is on the right side of the screen, so any reference to the Tron movies is bizarre.Both leads play the teenagers with a fresh believability, while Louise Bourgoin is suitably sultry as the troubled Audrey. Melvin Popaud plays the villain of the piece in a way that invites sympathy whilst making it clear that he is also very dangerous and duplicitous.
The score by Anthony Gonzales and his group M83 adds to the ambience of the film superbly and was a highlight for me. The Black Hole theme reminded me of some of Goblin’s score for the horror movie Suspiria with it’s playful keyboard melody.
Black Heaven is well worth a look, even though it doesn’t quite deliver on its initial promise; flagging a little in the middle only to return for an intriguing final act. The somewhat superficial air about it could be put down to its Gallic origins and a style that I’ve come across before, even in Luc Besson’s movies.
6 out of 10 (Wayfarer)
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