My King: Penetrating the inner depths of sadomasochistic love
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2015: Maïwenn plunges to the depths of addictive and painful attraction, giving big parts to Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot
With her intensely realistic energy marked with constant outbursts and her fondness for the violent wounds of everyday life, Maïwenn's films do not leave you indifferent by any means. With My King [+see also:
film profile], which is being screened in competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival (where the director took home the Special Jury Prize in 2011 with Poliss [+see also:
film profile]), the French filmmaker goes a step further in solidifying her approach (electrifying as ever) with a blazing dissection of the most intimate links between two people during ten years of "everyday" life. An uncompromising journey full of twists and turns in the obscure face of desire, centred around the toxic devotion of a highly seductive manipulative deviant and a woman in pursuit of a dream who unconsciously associates feelings and suffering. But here there's no need for bondage or hitting for the most acute of pain to be inflicted, as control is the name of this poisonous game, which is heightened by the free (and nonetheless controlled) camera work of the director.
"In life we go fast, we don't look back, and then we fall. And sometimes, we can't get back up again". Upon hearing these words from the doctor, Tony (Bercot) starts silently crying. Having torn a ligament in her knee, she's just arrived at a rehabilitation centre in a wheelchair. But although her body is beaten, her spirit is in an even worse condition. Yet everything seemed so idyllic when she met Georgio (Cassel) a decade earlier, a handsome, lively, sophisticated and smooth talking man with a wicked sense of humour who loves unusual surprises. Although she's not taken in by his charm, Tony quickly falls under his spell, all the more so as she is severely self-doubting and barely knows how to defend herself in spite of appearances (she's a lawyer). But the surprises soon take a turn for the worse when she falls pregnant (her partner obsesses over her suicidal ex, takes up a separate apartment - "I want this baby, but I can't cope with being with you 24 hours a day" - and the bailiffs come to re-possess the furniture of the domestic home abandoned by her husband). Failing to heed the warnings of those closest to her, Tony falls into a state of depression just before giving birth, leading Georgio to ramp up his psychological assault. Alternating between being reassuring, showing remorse, professing his love and vowing redemption, he continues with his excesses alone and tells every type of lie (maintaining a dual personality fuelled by a concoction of drugs) to make Tony hopelessly dependent on a relationship which is doing her no good yet which she still desires, leaving her in a state close to drowning which she cannot pull herself out of even after their divorce...
Maïwenn outlines this more than unhappy fate of this woman without at all compromising her values or her absolutist search for the truth, which she expresses through long sequences in which the best at times borders on excessive (especially in group scenes). Painstakingly staged (by the director and Etienne Comar), skilfully compressing and extending time, My King finally gives Vincent Cassel the chance to finally play a subtle role worthy of his talent, whilst Emmanuelle Bercot puts her heart and soul into embodying a very difficult character. The pair allow the film to reach its full and sombre potential, despite the inevitable dross that comes with the dynamic approach of the French filmmaker, who is more at home in black swirling waters than white restorative magic.
(Translated from French)