REVIEW: DVD Release: Rapt

Film: Rapt
Release date: 13th September 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 120 mins
Director: Lucas Belvaux
Starring: Yvan Attal, Anne Consigny, André Marcon, Françoise Fabian, Alex Descas
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Studio: Chelsea
Format: DVD
Country: France/Belgium

Reflecting a growing disaffection with the economic ruling classes, Belgian director Lucas Belvaux’s 2009 kidnapping drama is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Parisian businessman Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal) has the kind of life most people can only dream of. He is hugely wealthy, enjoys powerful connections, and has a wonderful home, complete with a loving, beautiful wife, Francoise (Anne Consigny), and two doting daughters, but all of this doesn’t seem to be enough for him. As we soon discover, he has made a habit of being unfaithful to his wife, and has a serious gambling problem that is spiralling out of control.

When he is kidnapped, and one of his fingers is cut off to be sent with a ransom demand, we feel more sympathy for his wife and daughters, if not his coldly indifferent mother, than we do for him. It becomes clear, as his gambling and womanising ways are exposed by a baying media, that his personal wealth is not as large as previously thought, but his business colleagues agree to advance the money to his wife for his ransom payment, perhaps more out of expediency and the desire to put an end to the embarrassing media revelations than any genuine concern for their director’s well-being.

As the media revelations continue to mount, and the police increase pressure on Francoise and the board of Stanislas’s company to do things their way, the kidnappers begin to lose patience, but are in no hurry to forfeit their chance at getting their hands on the kind of wealth that Stanislas allowed to slip through his fingers…

Given the nature of the story, and Stanislas’s flawed personality, it would have been easy for Belvaux to slip into a heavy-handed social commentary about the dispossessed trying to even the score against a rich and unscrupulous tycoon, so it is to his credit that Rapt functions primarily as a taut human drama that is as subtle as it is stylish. Stanislas may be an arrogant scion of wealth and a cheat, but he is only human, and in the hands of his kidnappers his perceived power, in a cruel twist, only makes him more vulnerable.

What also gives Rapt an edge over most other films of this type is the way Belvaux focuses on the fear and confusion experienced by Francoise and her two daughters. The daughters, in particular, are forced to confront the fact that Stanislas may not be the perfect man they thought he was, and when they discover that their mother was at least partially aware of his philandering ways, they feel that she is complicit in having created the illusion of a perfect life that now lies shattered around them.

Where the film does take on a more pointed political edge is in its treatment of the business and political figures that Stanislas works with. Belvaux takes care not to overdo this side of the film, but he does not shy away from presenting the majority of these characters in an unflattering light. Most of them are only concerned with what they see as a public relations problem and the ongoing profitability of the company, while Stanislas’s second in command, Andre Peyrac (Andre Marcon), seems to quietly relish the opportunity to take control.

As the tension mounts, and Stanislas unravels under the pressure, it begins to look as though certain parties would prefer him to disappear for good, and there is even a suggestion that he may have organised the kidnapping himself in order to get the company to pay off his debts.

Aided by editing and cinematography that add to the slowly building tension, and sense of emotional unease, Belvaux has delivered an absorbing and, at times, almost austere dramatic thriller that avoids mainstream gimmicks. If there were a Hollywood remake, which is apparently on the cards, Rapt could well end up looking like a cross between a big budget advert and a pop video, with lots of flashy editing, saturated colours, pointless effects, fanciful camera work and an obtrusive soundtrack, but Belvaux knows when to hold back and maintain a sense of distance.

An experienced actor himself, Belvaux has also coaxed excellent performances from his cast. Yvan Attal handles Stanislas’s transition from an assured man of power to a cowering physical and mental wreck with consummate skill, but it is perhaps in the latter part of the film - spoiler alert - when he impresses most. Once he has been released from the clutches of his kidnappers, Stanislas is arguably at his least likeable. Reunited with his wife and daughters, he is more interested in seeing his dog than confronting the conflicted emotions of his family, and responds with petulance and remarkable selfishness to their feelings of betrayal.

Anne Consigny is even more impressive as Francoise, and is nothing less than mesmerising as a woman who struggles to keep her dignity and sanity intact while trying to support her children in the face of agonising humiliation and fear for her husband’s life. In many respects, Francoise is the heart of the film: a woman torn between the old order and the uncertainty of the new; between her priviledged, if fatally compromised life and the chance at another, less submissive existence.

In some respects, Rapt is a conventional kidnapping drama, but Belvaux invests it with a heady sense of weight and an awareness of context that transforms it into a film of unusual power and intelligence. JG

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