VOD film review: Stranger by the Lake
James R | On 07, Mar 2014
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao
Watch Stranger by the Lake online in the UK: BFI Player (Subscription) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Apple TV (iTunes) / Curzon Home Cinema / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Ever since Basic Instinct, two words have been closely linked in cinematic dictionaries: “erotic” and “thriller”. Today, they conjure up images of Michael Douglas and cheesy 80s music. Thanks to Stranger by the Lake, though, the words have lost none of their edge.
This graphic tale takes place at an isolated gay cruising spot, just around the corner of a lake from a wholesome family picnic area. Hovering to one side is Henn (d’Assumçao), a bulbous grump – more turnip than human – who looks on as the men bat eyelids on the beach before heading into the woods. Henn soon makes friends with the young Franck (Deladonchamps), who can’t wait to get acquainted – particularly with the hirsute, manly Michel (Paou), whose moustache is a sight to behold.
Things take a turn for the sinister, though, when Franck sees something happen in the water between Michel and another lover – an event that director Alain Guiraudie captures in one long, lingering take from the hilltops. That Hitchcockian blend of voyeurism and tension takes hold as Franck, Michel and Henn all find themselves caught up in a police investigation.
Plodding up and down the shore with his hands behind his back, the detective is perplexed by the community he encounters – not only are they distant, they’re secretive too. Even if they were with someone on the night in question, they can’t remember the lucky guy’s name. Everyone’s a stranger by the lake – including us.
That claustrophobic, closeted atmosphere only makes the outbursts that do unfold even more intense. As Franck finds himself falling in love by the sunlit water, should he be scared or excited about his newfound partner? Pierre conveys the naivety of young affection with doe-eyed sincerity, the perfect foil to Christophe’s intimidating presence – both of them an arresting contrast to Patrick d’Assumçao’s understated onlooker. As restrained as it is racy, there’s a raw realism to the slow-burn plot, balancing Franck’s emotional growth with a mounting physical risk that grips right until the end.
Stranger by the Lake is available now on BFI Player, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.