Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’: L’Adversaire (2002) de Nicole Garcia

May 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Who is ‘the adversary’ to which this film’s title refers, and does the answer to this question influence one’s impression of how writer-director Nicole Garcia handles her subject matter?  Based on Emmanuel Carrère’s namesake non-fiction book, Garcia’s film dramatises the case of Jean-Claude Romand (fictionalised here as Jean-Marc Faure) who, in 1993, murdered his children, wife and parents after spending over a decade pretending to be a high-ranking doctor at the World Health Organisation, and living on defrauded money. For a film that sounds like a hybrid of Laurent Cantet’s Time Out (2001), Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2000) and Joachim Lafosse’s Our Children (2012), L’Adversaire lacks their respective eeriness, energy and pathos, instead being a very intelligible but somewhat unfocused picture that seems to be aiming for ambiguity when the source material is by nature sufficiently mysterious and difficult to comprehend, psychologically, morally, and most definitely logistically. Yet, whether by design at the script stage or in the editing suite, Garcia and Co choose to intercut the last few months of Faure’s chronic ruse with the homicides he eventually commits, also sprinkling in a handful of scenes in which Faure’s associates are quizzed by law enforcers about their utter bamboozlement and complicity by way of ignorance. When applied with deftness and consideration, such a temporal approach can prove thrilling to watch as a narrative and its characters comment on themselves, unearthing surprising connections as well as relevant contradictions, enriching the central theme(s) in the process. Unfortunately, Garcia’s use of the semi-staggered timeline only works to protract the unraveling of Faure’s grand lie, and, in a way, a measure of tension and foreboding is certainly achieved. L’Adversaire is a thriller of sorts, and on this front is does succeed in an understated way. However, to return to the opening question of this piece, very little is posited in the film, which is not to say that answers are mandatory but that the title does suggest some sort of angle or theory. There are moments which suggest a dissociative state or extreme denial; depression; delusion; pathological pride. But perhaps, like the source material’s author Carrère, Garcia and her writers are implicating ‘evil’ in the form of psychosis, suggesting that Romand/Faure was himself a victim of malignant, adversarial mental forces that he failed to grasp and control, and that he in turn became a silent adversary to those who, for years, trusted him; an adversary to simple honesty and decency. If this is the case, L’adversaire does not betray its hand, content with simply following said forces as they lie, steal and wreak domestic havoc, following them to the story’s sad end without too much speculation or comment. I suspect Garcia’s rebuttal would be that speculation is ultimately up to the viewer, and fair enough. Perhaps there is sufficient substance in Daniel Auteuil’s wide-eyed, slippery, admittedly fine performance to allow for some rich theorising.


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