Can you love a murderer? That’s the question raised in Stranger by the Lake, an award-winning French thriller about love, intimacy and anonymity. Director/writer Alain Guiraudie’s exceptional work was recognised when he was awarded the Queer Palm and Best Director Awards in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Stranger by the Lake follows the summer adventures of two young men, played by French rising stars Pierre Delafonchamps and Christophe Paou. Franck (Delafonchamps) is a regular at a cruising spot located at a lakeside nudist beach in Southern France. The lake itself features in every scene and soon becomes a central character within the story – reflective, pensive and naturally beautiful. The film has stirred discussion for its depiction of unsimulated sex, which features during the sexual trysts of men cruising in the bushland surrounding the lake.
The story takes a twist when Franck happens to witnesses Michel (Christophe Paou) drowning his previous lover in the lake. This scene sees Guiraudie draw on Hitchcock-like techniques, employing camera stillness to create a claustrophobic atmosphere reminiscent of Rear Window. Franck remains unexpectedly quiet about witnessing the murder, instead choosing to dive into a deep relationship with Michel. As he dabbles with danger, and becomes engulfed in the raptures of love, the audience has no way of telling how this will end.
The men rarely exchange names, yet engage themselves in intense emotional and physical relationships. I found this to be realistic representation of the dichotomy that can be found within human interaction. The film features no musical soundtrack, instead utilising the sounds of water lapping, birds rustling and sexual interaction. This aids in bringing a realism to the film which ensured that the resulting tension within the storyline kept me on the edge of my seat.
Strangers by the Lake a beguiling thriller that asks, will love get you killed?
Stranger by the Lake premieres at 9.30pm tonight Friday 28 February as part of WM Celebrates: Queer Cinema.