cinq fois deux

Went to a french film festival. There was a bit of drama because the theatre the film was supposed to be showing had a fire and it had to be rescheduled to another cinema an hour later, so we didn’t start till 10pm.

The theme and name of the film, 5×2, isn’t obvious until the end, is 5 scenes about 2 people’s lives, told in reverse chronological order.

We start off in a lawyer’s office, where a couple’s divorce is being finalised. It’s drab, dull and drone, probably intentionally so. The divorce is surprisingly amicable — wife to get house and son, visitation rights defined, share assets, no alimony. It’s the next part that throws us, is it before or after the divorce? Because next we see the same 2 people walking down an ugly hotel corridor and entering an equally ugly room. They undress awkwardly and lie naked in bed next to each other.

Didn’t they just get divorced? Even the man says, they’re not married. So what are they doing? He makes advances at her and at first she’s ok but then she tries to stop him. He doesn’t relent and forces himself on her. Is it rape? She went to the room with him willingly. But then she says stop, and stop is stop. So yes, it’s rape.

He tries to talk to her and even asks if they should try again. She walks out without answering, to hammer home the message of how bad the relationship is.

Act 2 throws us off in the beginning, because they’re at home together and it’s a dinner party. It’s sometime in the past. The guests are his brother and his brother’s young lover. They talk about infidelity and the young guy says he doesn’t believe in it and the brother supports him because he always come back.

The man reveals that he cheated on her once, but the way he says it, that he participated in a drunken orgy while she watched, seems like she approves. Though he says it’s only once, there’s an undercurrent of disbelief, that he’s strayed other times.

The strain in the marriage is already showing, she can’t stand him touching her, they don’t communicate, he can’t sleep and retreats to their son’s room. It’s these little signs.

Act 3 starts with her walking along a hospital corridor, heavily pregnant. There’s a bit of confusion, is she pregnant after the divorce encounter? Is this in the past? Turns out it’s the birth of their son and she has to have an emergency c-section and he’s born premature. Even though she calls him immediately, he continues working, holds his calls and stops for lunch, he arrives at the hospital 3 hours later. Why? Apart from the fact that he’s a bastard, it’s evident that he loves her so the behaviour is puzzling.

Act 4 is their wedding and it’s the only time that we see them truly happy. But events on their first night together, married, already sow the seed for failure. He falls asleep in the bed before they can get intimate, she goes out for a walk and ends up having semi-rough sex with a stranger. On her wedding night, no wonder she always looks depressed.

Act 5 shows how they meet, in an Italian seaside resort. He is there with his former girlfriend of 4 years and notices this girl he knows vaguely from work, there on her own. Even the ex-girlfriend notices him noticing her, and she knows something is wrong.

We end with the couple on the beach together (while the girlfriend is out hiking) and walking into the sunset.

What a contrasting image. They don’t get the happy ending that walking into the sunset implies, but at that point in time, they don’t know that, though we’re all too aware. Such is the power of hindsight.

It’s a thoughtful film, not fantastic but worth seeing. I’m not sorry I stayed up till nearly midnight for it. The imdb review compares it to other reverse- or mixed up- ordered films like Memento and 21 grams. While Memento has attained cult status by being the one most recognized and revolutionary in its days; and 21 grams’ story packs a bigger punch, 5×2 is just a simple tale of a marriage gone sour, it’s nobody’s fault, there’s no big murder scene, or mystery to solve, it’s complexity is its simplicity.