My notes on Hors du Monde (Out of This World)The official synopsis for Hors du Monde is ‘A shy man who works as a taxi driver because he can’t afford to live as a musician, meets a deaf girl dancer who is attracted to him despite his trouble communicating.’ Fair enough, but that doesn’t mention that the protagonist, Léo (Kevin Mischel) , is also a serial killer of young women – which makes this a rather queasy entry into a longstanding cycle of films that delve into the pain and self-pity of agonised men who have been hideously abused – Léo’s chanteuse mother (Dominique Frot) left a tracery of brands and scars on his body – and can express themselves only through violence.
It’s an upscale, powerful film – tactfully directed and brilliantly acted, with a streak of strange beauty – but it’s also difficult not to feel, after a hundred or so of these things, that the killer’s suffering is being privileged over that of the various women he meets, who wind up dead and dumped in a pond. This sub-genre ranges from Peeping Tom to Maniac, and there always seems to be a special girl who piques the killer’s interest – Anna Massey and Caroline Munro is those films – and provides a doomed relationship thread to bind together various kill scenes. Here, Léo – a frustrated composer – is struck by Amélie (Aurélia Poirier), a deaf girl who expresses her own inner torments through dance. Léo abducts a terrified girl from a club and demands dating tips from her and also tries dance therapy, though his attempt turns into a strangely aggressive stabbing pogo that freaks out everyone else on the floor. The course of the weird romance is followed through to an unusual degree – a thing happens here that doesn’t in most versions of this story, though then something else develops that gets it back on the expected track.
Writer-director Marc Fouchard previously made Break, another film about a troubled dancer, so that seems to be his entry into psycho cinema. Hard as it is to warm up to this, it’s a work of considerable imagination and verve, and the American Psycho-ish angle that Léo’s fantasies of killing are often dramatised then rolled back on is used to make much of the film disorienting, sometimes with the double bluff that scenes we take to be in the protagonist’s head are actually happening and sometimes with moments of breathtaking surrealism (in a film full of stabbings, the biggest shock comes when someone who shouldn’t speaks). Mischel, held over from Break, sinks into his role in the way Ralph Fiennes does in Spider – or even Joaquin Phoenix in Joker – and Poirier is an equally strong, strange, interior presence as the tiny, angry, expressive, unusual heroine.