Features & News

Anti-Advent Calendar #24

Christmas. It’s almost here. But you already know that, and if you’re still with us then you’re probably more excited to see what we’ve got to offer you today than for any silly presents or meal tomorrow. Day 24. ‘twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for…

It’s finally here, and in a break with tradition, we’re giving you a film actually set at Christmas; or more specifically, Christmas Eve – 2007’s À l’intérieur, or Inside to the non-Francophiles. Following the death of her husband in a car crash four months prior, the heavily pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is solemnly preparing to give birth to a child she now seems to have little interest bringing into the world. Already having vivid nightmares of her child forcing itself out of her via her mouth, our apathetic heroine’s evening is only going to get worse when she’s visited by a strange woman…

Part of the wave of New French Extremism (along with Martyrs which you may remember from Day #1 in our calendar), À l’intérieur is inarguably a difficult watch, as any film featuring a pregnant belly in close proximity to a gigantic pair of scissors would be. But behind the squeamishness sits a solidly told tale of grief and survival, a complex study of what it means to be a mother coated in pure viscera. It’s harrowing, yes, unbearably tense, yes, and hypnotic – in no small part thanks to Beatrice Dalle.

Dalle’s performance as ‘la femme’ (‘The Woman’), who visits Sarah, is part of a screen lineage of electrifying female psychotics yet never falls into misogynist cliché or crass broad strokes (Dalle presents her as less obvious than even the acclaimed icons of this category e.g. Misery’s Annie Wilkes), despite the type of film and how basically her character is sketched out to us.

With essentially one location (which is fully redecorated in blood by the credits) and a handful of characters (the source of the blood), Inside makes the absolute most of its resources to resonate long after the haunting final image. It’s a genre film elevated to the ranks of greatness and a film that should be experienced by everyone – though not if your pregnant at the time…

Tom Watchorn

P.S. Happy holidays!

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