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Antoine and Helene drive to South France to return their kids from a holiday camp. The traffic is dense and the atmosphere growingly tense; he is an alcoholic and becomes increasingly drunk the more often they stop. After a fierce discussion they split and both have to face great danger during the night. Written by
Moritz Muehlenhoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the beginning of the movie, the main characters meet at a cafe in the late afternoon. They then go home and get ready to travel to Bordeaux to pick up their kids. On the trip to Bordeaux, they are stuck in heavy traffic. Although it is now early evening, the vertical shadows cast by the cars indicate that the traffic scenes were shot at mid-day. See more »
Red Lights is a strange, abstract, almost existential exercise in movie making. Adapted from the 1953 novel by Georges Simenon and set to Debussy's elegantly creepy Nuages, writer-director Cedric Kahn offers up movie with attributes of a Hitchcockian suspense thriller.
The feeling of foreboding begins immediately when we meet Antoine Dunant (Jean-Pierre Darroussin a low-level insurance executive. He's just leaving his job to meet his beautiful wife Hélène (Carole Bouquet) in a local café. They are planning to drive to the countryside from Paris to pick up their kids from summer camp.
But as soon as Antoine gets to the café he guzzles three beers back to back with one eye on the street lest his wife arrive before he's suitably fortified. It soon becomes pretty obvious that their marriage is far from happy - Antoine armed with enough drink to sink an elephant, settles into a manner of truculent impetuosity, while Helene remains detached, cold, and almost abusive.
While in the road, Helen discovers that her husband is utterly plastered. She hardly says anything as he weaves all over the road, but her silence speaks volumes. Thus starts a trip of barely controlled hostility with the husband clenching the wheel and brooding, while the wife fumes beside him. Both are so busy bickering with each other and thinking dark thoughts that they're half oblivious to news reports of an escaped convict on the loose nearby.
Antoine isn't usually a drinker, but something has snapped in him, and as the neon signs of the roadside bars start to beckon him, he becomes obsessed with downing as much cold beer and whisky as he can. He leaves Helene angrily waiting in the car while he goes into yet another bar, to prepare himself for the long night ahead.
Hélène, freaked by his increasing belligerence and inability to drive in a straight line, abandons her husband to look for a train station. Meanwhile Antoine strikes up a conversation with a reserved one-armed stranger (Vincent Deniard).
When, minutes later, the stranger steps out of the parking-lot shadows, his face half hidden by the hood of a sweatshirt, and asks for a ride, the cocky, staggering Antoine doesn't even break stride. By now he's so sweaty and drunk that he waves the fellow right into the car.
What follows is detour into a night of terror for Antoine, Helene, and for the viewer. The movie starts to resemble everyone's nightmare - the inexplicable disappearance of a loved one. And as Antoine embarks on a desperate journey to track his wife down, it soon becomes clear that Red Lights is really showing us a portrait of a marriage, a marriage that has been enigmatically hanging by a thread.
Their need to see the children again is probably just a way of distracting them from the aridness of their relationship. She's beautiful and accomplished, while he plain and dull. Somehow the couple began their marriage as equals, but she soon eclipsed him, for which he can't forgive her. Other than this, Kahn provides very little reason as to why their relationship has suddenly gone sour.
What Kahn does provide, however, is the knowledge that marriage can often dissipate completely, leave two strangers in a car, totally sick of each other, in desperate need of a reviving shock to the system. But when the sun finally rises, and Antoine is released from his drunken hell, Kahn does provide a dash of hope for the couple.
In the end, Red Lights is showing that relationships are frail and that the machinations of marriage are often inexplicable. And if nothing else, Antoine and Helen show that it can all dramatically and irrevocably change and fall apart in a searing flash of red light. Mike Leonard September 05.
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