Trouble (2005)

Starring Benoît Magimel, Natasha Régnier, Olivier Gourmet

Directed by Harry Cleven

You know those moments in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, or Mulholland Drive where he seemingly at random decides to switch one character for another? Sometimes the characters have the same name, but a different face, other times the same face but a new name. Normally, we never know how or why these identity switches occur. Now, imagine someone made a feature length movie that explained, in graphic detail, the circumstances and rationale behind a Lynchian identity shift, and you might have some small idea of what Trouble accomplishes.

The film opens with the main character Matyas having a dream in which he is told by his son, “I’ll count to ten. If you don’t wake up by then, a great tragedy will happen.” Of course, Matyas misses his ethereal wakeup call, which sets in motion a chain of events that will change Matyas’ life forever.

The morning after his fateful dream Matyas (orphaned as a child and never knew his family) receives word that the mother he thought long dead has only recently passed away. The shock of finding out his mother had been alive all these years is compounded when Matyas discovers that he also has an identical twin brother named Thomas.

As in many “twins” movies, the two brothers are both eerily similar, but also fundamentally different. Thomas is the weaker of the two, yet his neediness and eagerness to give and receive affection endears him to Matyas wife and son. Similarly, Thomas’ wife Elina finds comfort in the arms of Matyas, after revealing that Thomas secretly beats her. The two gradually begin to assume each other’s identities, but when Matyas decides that he prefers his former life of domestic happiness to being Elina’s confessor, trouble comes knocking.

Saying much more about the plot would ruin the mind-blowing finale, so I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say no one is who they seem, and sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

Visually, Trouble is stunning. Filmed in widescreen, director Harry Clevel fills the frame with close-ups of Benoit Magimel, letting us discover the nuances in his incredible dual performance. The most visually arresting scenes are those in which Matyas begins to remember his past. Each flashback is depicted as a de-saturated landscape, punctuated only by red; the twins, wearing red scarves, a straight razor, bathed in a shaft of red light, or the bloody stump of a dismembered…

Trouble is the kind of movie critics like to call a “suspense thriller”, because they just can’t rationalize how a movie this artistically successful can be a horror movie. Granted, the only monster in Trouble is the one staring back at Matyas in the mirror, but perhaps Cleven is striving to show us that, in film, as in life, the truest horrors are always closer than they appear…

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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