Sunday, June 1, 2008

Review: Frontier(s) (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Karina Testa, Patrick Ligardes, Samuel Le Bihan, Amélie Daure, Joël Lefrançois, Jean-Pierre Jorris, Estelle Lefébure, David Saracino, Aurelien Wiik, Maud Forget
Written & Directed By: Xavier Gens
Released: 2007
Grade: A+

Frontier(s)is a French horror film that takes the lead of films of grotesque horror, but uses more thought to construct meaning and purpose in the film than many gore fests usually do. It uses the severity of the torture the characters are forced to deal with to expose the insanity that is very much alive in the world.

The film takes place inside the slums of France in a time where there were constant riots against the government, especially regarding the presidential election. It centers on a group of teens who in attempts to make it by, pull off a robbery. Yasmine (Testa) has gotten stuck in the middle of this since her brother and her ex-boyfriend are both paranoid that the other is going to turn on them. Yasmine demands that they take him to the hospital. Even though they do this knowing the risk of getting tracked down it isn’t enough to save his life. Forced to leave her dying boyfriend, Yasmine is chased by governmental authorities for being a part of the robbery. Four of the teens are left, two in each car, attempting to get away. They plan on meeting each other at a hostel in a less urban area in hopes of getting to the border.

They find what seems to be a nice place to stay especially when two young ladies that work there, Gilberte (Lefébure) and Klaudia (Daure) hit on the two boys and end up having sex with them. This ends up being a deadly mistake on their part though. After this happens the brothers of these ladies, Karl (Ligardes) and Goetz (Bihan) go after them, making them pay for “taking advantage” of their sisters. When Yasmine and her brother arrive there, their friends are no longer around as they are desperately trying to find a way out of the hell that they find themselves in. Gilberte takes the new arrivals where she claims their friends have gone. However, when they get there, they become trapped in a center of torture, surrounded with dead bodies hanging everywhere. They are immediately attacked and if anyone is going to survive this, it is Yasmine, there is little hope for anyone else at this point. Even if she does live though, she might have a very grim life. This family that owns this hostel are very deranged neo-natzis. They want to keep Yasmine to be Karl’s wife, and to take her baby to be Karl’s and the future of the family, keeping the head of the family’s ideals alive. This leaves Yasmine to be a lifelong prisoner of this man who brutally tortured and killed her own flesh and blood, a sentence that won’t end with her, but will continue on with her child.

Karina Testa gave an intense and invigorating performance as Yasmine. There is such a growth in her character that has to go through so many horrors on very many levels. Her strength is relentless and even when she doesn’t say a word the communication is there, helping us feel just a fraction of the pain she does. Jean-Pierre Jorris plays the head of the house and really demonstrates in a mind boggling way just how harmful an urge for dominance and perfection can be. Maud Forget gave a great performance. She gave a very creepy and chilly vibe at first, but then we see that she really isn’t as horrid as some of her family is. She even tries to help Yasmine, but refuses to be set free herself all because of her loyalty to her children.

The setting of Frontier(s) exposes what a crazy world we are living in. With all the bad there is such a small hope for good, that by bringing a child in to this place all you are really doing is setting them up for constant hardships where morality is no longer prevalent. Even before the torture occurs, there is a definite questioning of how anything good can keep any purity, where there seems to be inescapable troubles everywhere you look. Family is a major subject dealt with here. Most of the teens have lost majority of their families, and this lack of support in addition to their lack of faith in the government has them turning to stealing just to get by. Even the brother and sister, only have each other, which is a bond that is quickly destroyed.

The most interesting family unit is the neo-nazi family, partially because of their slanted beliefs, but also because deep down they show tendencies and emotions that aren’t as different from the norm than you might think. The constant talk of the “perfect race” is part of the father’s cruelty and reason why the family is so dysfunctional. Murders are committed by them for two reasons: the first being to find a woman who can serve the new head of the house and produce a perfect race baby, and the second, to satisfy their hunger for power. Where the family shows hints of normalcy is through the favoring of the son, Karl. The father claims that he is the only worthy one in the entire family and now each and every one of them has to listen to and complete his every command as if they were his army of servants. Sibling rivalry comes in to play through feelings of unjustly being treated like inferiors. It is family where superiority is everything. Those who are thought to be inadequate have served their long and hard sentences, killing for their father time and time again. Eva wasn’t even born in to this madness but abides by it in hope that if she does her birth parents will return to her. Her strong belief in them is partially why she stays there, in hopes to see them, but also to be there for her children like she thinks her parents will be some day for her. The father thought her children to be unsuitable since they didn’t fit in to his idea of perfect. They are forced to live in the mine like animals, where Eva visits them. Living in these conditions is what she must do, and she does it without hesitation.

Authoritative governmental stances are heavily criticized in the film. Neo-nazi's ideals are shown obviously through the beliefs of the characters and how harmful it is even for the family themselves who practice them. Also shown are the riots in France that took place in the country in 2005. It puts what happens in the film in to great context. The Neo-nazis are a representation of the French government. This choice was obvious with their idea of perfection needing to be dominant and with the French government’s lack of tolerance or very many rights of equality or freedom of expression. There was a fear of police brutality especially given the anarchic state that was present and the neo-nazis are the ones who end up handing out that brutality on their behalf in the way of torture and imprisonment. It’s as if they are all on the same team. If one doesn’t get you the other will. When the characters find themselves fleeing from one of them they end up in the mercy of the other. Showing that there is no way out.

Frontier(s) is so many things in one brilliant horror film. It takes a dangerous state in France, directly deriving from the reality there in 2005, in to a very intelligent commentary on the subject. By using such intense proportions of gore and intensity it puts in to perspective the severity of what went on and how threatening the government had been to the French’s previous way of life. It does this so much so that it almost redefines what life means to these people, taking away all of the goodness that it should imply. Inside of all of this are very complex and interesting characters, gruesome kills, high levels of tension, and a strength not just through the characters but through the film. The spot on writing along with everything else the film has going for it brings out a promising future for horror. With so many remakes, sequels, and copy cats in the American mainstream, Frontier(s) is very refreshing, as not only an excellent and innovative horror film, but as one that actually has something to say. Usually we get one or the other. Either it’s thought provoking and symbolic or it is a fun gory bloody slasher. Frontier(s) is the perfect example of showing us that both of these are important. Most would doubt the importance of blood and twisted kills to spread a message, but it portrays the film’s motives completely. We are shown that horror is a genre that can do good, even going beyond a viewing of the film, producing a bond and vital energy that we should feel whenever a movie is done right as the brilliant Frontier(s) certainly is.

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