William Faber became a tax accountant like his father and resolved himself to a life where nothing much ever changed. At least until the beautiful Anna walked in one day and mistook his office for the therapist’s down the hall. Unsolicited, Anna begins to reveal intimate details of her life which include how she is seeking security by attempting to save her tumultuous marriage. William and Anna find a bond developing between them, one that only true strangers can have, even after she finds out who he really is…or is not!
Masterfully directed by French film legend Patrice Leconte (Man On The Train, Girl On The Bridge, The Widow Of St. Pierre), Intimate Strangers takes you on a journey into the depths of human relationships and shows just how intimate strangers can be.
This one snuck up on me. I had picked it up from the library for reasons that escape me now (perhaps simply because it was a new release at the time?) and I liked it so much that I simply had to buy it.
I loved not knowing anything about it and wondering what was going on. It was at once comical, mysterious and even sinister, and I was completely engrossed in how things were developing, trying to figure out what lay beneath the surface and what would come next.
Sandrine Bonnaire and Fabrice Lucini are spellbinding here; it’s impossible to look away. Bonnaire made Anna completely life-like, expressive, quirky… and yet mysterious. Lucini expertly made Faber into a repressed dreamer who is all business until Anna stumbles into his life; it makes complete sense that he becomes so utterly fascinated.
His loneliness is palpable. He’s bound by a past that he never separated from but somewhat wished he had; there’s a regret about his life even though he is extremely proud of the work he does and he’s well-to-do. He has nothing else but his work, and even works on Sundays to keep himself busy; he’s a content man, but he needs something more.
The rest of the cast was quite good as well. Michel Duchaussoy plays the stuffy psychiatrist down the hall who gives advice (and, amusingly, bills in exchange ) to Faber. His character is dry but funny. Hélène Surgère was once Faber’s father’s secretary and now she is his. She’s a bit terse, yet efficient, and is starting to wonder about her boss’ waning professionalism. Anne Brochet plays Faber’s ex, who is now his confidant (and vice-versa). She’s very good here, but pales in comparison to her turn in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ (as a side-note, she’s emaciated to a scary degree here – long gone is her youthful appeal )
‘Confidences trop intimes’ is all about the short dialogues that the characters have, the slow unfolding of Anna and Faber’s stories and the interconnecting of various puzzling pieces. It could be a play, as it’s almost completely dialogue-based and in one location. In fact, a few productions of this have been put together already (from what I could tell in a quick online search).
In some ways, it reminded me of ‘The Remains of the Day’, in that both male characters are completely incapable of expressing the love they feel for the woman in their lives. Hopkins’ performance is more heart-breaking, however, because there’s a sadness to it that isn’t found in Faber; Faber actually tries to follow-through on his passion (he just doesn’t find the words), whereas Hopkins’ character keeps to himself out of duty and propriety… and suffers for it.
On a technical level, the score to ‘Confidences trop intimes’ is absolutely perfect; it adds mystery to the film in way that is reminiscent of Goldmsith’s brilliant score to ‘Basic Instinct’ (in fact, the melodies and strings are very similar). The camera work however, left me nonplussed: it wasn’t still, which could be fine in some contexts, except that it jerked from time to time. I wonder if that’s intentional, and, if so, why that is. To me, it gave the impression of an amateur with a hand-held cam and little time for second takes. Very weird.
Otherwise, this is a well-made drama. It’s not for those who are thirsty for action, in that everything takes place in the exchanges and it’s a relatively still film. But anyone who wants three-dimensional, breathing, realistic characters should enjoy watching our duo unveil themselves bit by bit.
It’s also an involving piece because it piques the viewer’s interest by leaving much to the imagination, gradually revealing its truths and red herrings intertwined. Thus, one can’t help but stay glued to the screen to find out what comes next. I’d recommend it to fans of drama, human behaviour and/or sharp dialogue.