The 35th Cambridge Film Festival: Cruel

cambridge film festival logoThe Cambridge Film Festival, the UK’s third longest-running film festival returns 3rd – 13th September 2015 for its 35th edition, at the Arts Picturehouse, the Light Cinema and other venues across Cambridge. One of the UK’s most prestigious and well-respected film festivals, 2015 also celebrates Festival Director Tony Jones’s 30th anniversary with the festival, which has been shaped by Tony’s passion and exceptional knowledge of cinema.

This year’s festival features specially selected screenings for everyone, from parents with babies to retirees, the programme offers a diverse mix of films of short and feature length spanning different genres including 7 World Premieres, 55 UK Premieres, with films from more than 30 countries, plus special guests and complementary events and workshops, all scheduled at convenient times and locations. The Cambridge Film Festival is operated by the charitable Cambridge Film Trust and funded by BFI Film Forever. You can find out more about the festival at their website: http://www.cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk/

In today’s article, Andrew Brooker takes a look at the French dark crime drama, Cruel.


by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

“There’s no one left in his head. He’s gone”

Imagine being so bored in your life, so depressed with your situation or just so annoyed at the world that the only way to vent your frustrations is murder. Now imagine being so evil that you don’t simply kill your victims, but you toy with them for days beforehand. To spend your time meticulously planning a kidnapping so no one would know it was you keeping these people in your basement for your own twisted pleasures. Now imagine realising after years of no one knowing you were doing this, that you want to be noticed for what your doing! You nasty, attention seeking psychopath!

Unfortunately for Pierre, this is exactly the life he’s living. Spending his days in meaningless, menial jobs that make little or no difference to the world; coming home to look after his father who is suffering from sever Alzheimer’s disease and needs constant round-the-clock care that is ruining his finances and not having any way to vent his frustrations on the world that’s been so cruel to him. His solution? To be cruel right back. Pierre spends his free time either in the company of people he has kidnapped and locked in his basement, or out stalking and meticulously planning the abduction of his next victim.

Pierre torments his victims, spending his time getting to know them and their lives and always leaving them with a glimmer of hope that they may get out of their horrific situation alive; right up until he chooses his desired instrument and snuffs out the light in their eyes. Taking great delight in writing all his experiences down in his diary and confessing his crimes to the one and only person he can trust to forget everything he has said, his already suffering father. This method of coping seems to work for Pierre until, almost simultaneously, two very different things happen to him. First, he finds his need for attention suddenly growing. Wanting recognition for his work, the usually very careful serial killer finds himself taking risks in order to get the thrill of being noticed. At the same time, he meets Laure; a woman he takes an instant liking to in a way he’s never experienced before. As he finds his feeling for the young woman growing, he feels the need to kill may be disappearing, leaving him to these new feelings that are far more pleasant to deal with.

Probably the most interesting part of Cruel is how cruel it isn’t. The film takes the parts that, more often than not in these films, are gratuitous and over the top and hides them in shadow, or obscures them behind walls and leaves what we would usually have as the “gory bits” to our imagination. Instead, this debut feature from a celebrated French crime writer chooses subtlety and narration by giving us a peek behind the curtain and letting us watch Pierre unravel from the inside. We get to watch his conflicts play out and to watch the good and bad sides of this quiet killer fight it out out at the same time, vying for control of the man that desperately wants his demons to leave him be and let him spend his time in the company of a woman that is bringing out the best of him.

As serial killer films go, Cruel is far closer to the quieter, more low-key parts of films like American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than it is the violent, sadistic sides of them and their ilk. It’s a thoroughly interesting look at the internal conflict of our main character and has been beautifully filmed and brought to the screen with care and attention, even if it does use a little too much of that French accordion in the score.

Cruel is showing tomorrow night (Monday 7th September) at 19:00 over at The Light. You can find out more about Cruel and book tickets at the Cambridge Film Festival website.

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