SIFF: Fabrice Gobert’s “Simon Werner a Disparu”
Thanks to free tickets, we watched Fabrice Gobert’s Simon Werner a Disparu last night. The audience was still slightly stunned when the 24th Singapore International Film Festival representative hauled Fabrice Gobert, the director, and, Ana Girardot, who played Alice Cartier the female protagonist, up for a question and answer session after the show. Gobert said he had no idea why the English title was a bland “Lights Out” – he certainly wasn’t consulted on the matter.
THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT THIS MOVIE BOASTS A SOUNDTRACK BY SONIC YOUTH.
Set in the early 1990s in suburban France, amongst the uniform houses along the same street, at a time (said FG) when nothing much happened, students at a school start disappearing without reason. High school gossip circulates, speculation is rife as to what might have happened to the students (did they run away, where they murdered, was there a serial killer on the loose?) and who might have done it. Was it Yves the football coach whom Alice Cartier (Simon Werner’s official girlfriend) saw receiving money from Simon and who had young boys coming over to his house? Was it Rabier the teacher in the white lab coat whom Grammont claimed to have seen receiving oral sex from a student? Was it Rabier’s son, Jean-Baptiste Rabier, the French Tobey Maguire outcast whom Alice caught apparently peeping into the girls’ changing room? But he too disappears… Then Alice herself fails to return from the woods.
The audience too is made complicit in the unfounded speculation by the cunning use of standard horror trope – people getting separated from the safety of a group in a dark forest (helped along by the cracking of twigs and the climatic music).
In the end, the reality is quite mundane: Simon was paying Yves for a computer console and boys were going over to Yves place for advice on love and how to pass certain levels in computer games; Grammont had spread lies about the sex act because Rabier had refused to accept his late homework; Jean-Baptiste was waiting outside the girls’ changing room because Laetitia had asked him to do so etc; Laetitia and Jean-Baptiste were just playing hooky in the forest.
This is quite a message for our generation, a generation that gets its information from dubious sources online and that is inclined to believe every rumour and speculation without verification, as long as it is scandalous and accords with our unthinking default anti-establishment stance.
There was one death though, Simon did actually die. But he was just stabbed randomly by a guy who’d asked him for a light. Gobert said that most of the time, we think we are in control and that we can prevent things from happening by taking certain precautions, but we can’t. The rest of the characters who committed the horror movie sin of getting separated from the pack in a dark forest didn’t die, but Simon who just happened to be walking along a commonly used path, in broad daylight, did.