Under The SandThursday 12 Apr 2001
Directed by Francois Ozon, starring Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot and Alexandra Stewart.
Marie (Charlotte Rampling) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) have been married for 25 years. A childless couple, their gentle marriage is borne out on a plateau of intimacy with each other's idiosyncrasies. The daily tempo and silent complicities at the core of their existence form an atmosphere of comfort.
Continuing their life of habitual practice, the couple are holidaying in their summer retreat when events take a dramatic turn. Jean decides to go for a swim while Marie rests in the sun. Awaking from a nap some time later, Marie finds no sign of Jean. Concern turns to panic with the realisation that something tragic may have happened. When the coastguard fails to locate her husband, Marie's hitherto peaceful existence is instantly and emphatically shattered.
'Under The Sand' could have chosen to concentrate solely on the solution to the mystery of Jean's disappearance, to his credit, director Francois Ozon eschews the obvious instead crafting a deeply involving tale of a woman's struggle to cope alone, and of her oscillation between loyalty and acceptance. Marie is forced to re-evaluate everything she once held constant: the structure of her marriage, economic comfort, the certainty of routine.
Rampling's performance as the ostensibly calm and composed Marie is nothing short of revelatory, expertly providing the silences and nuance of expression that are integral to the script's success. Yet the real triumph of 'Under The Sand' is Ozon's achievement in drawing the viewer in to the emotional complexity of the story, without ever really providing any certainties. It is an achievement that leaves us with a measured yet deeply enthralling character study of loss and loyalty.