Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Wolves in the Snow (Des Chiens dans La Neige) -- Spiral of Lies
Director: Michel Welterlin, 2002.
Wolves in the Snow is the story of innocence lost. A French crime noir set in Montreal, it tells the story of Lucie a naive innocent wife who quickly and easily becomes a killer and deceiver.
The movie opens in Lucie's home with a tight, tense scene that predicts the mood of the rest of the film. Lucie (Marie-Josée Croze) confronts her husband Antoine who has just returned home. As their voices rise, he cruelly tells her the truth of their relationship: he has been unfaithful to her for years while she has been engrossed in her scuba diving. With this revelation of truth, the argument explodes into violence and she kills him. This truth propels her into a dark descent into the seemier side of Montreal.
When she decides to flee, Ruben (Jean-Philippe Écoffey), a business associate of Antoine's, catches her at the airport. But Ruben is no business man; he is a gangster, a thug. When he takes her passport and baggage, she has no way out. She cannot run. She has to rely on his help to dispose of the body.
Before she knows it, Marco (Romano Orzari, pictured below), Ruben's boss, is involved, and there is a matter of missing money. Although Lucie really is not involved, the gangsters cannot believe that she knew nothing of her husband's doings. As she lies to survive, she finds herself caught up in an ever-tightening web of deceit.
The corrupted innocence of Croze's Lucie, whose eyes are opened to the darkness and depravity of humanity, is complemented by the cynical world-weariness of Écoffey's Ruben, who has seen too much and wants out of the business. Together they make an unlikely pair, but it is this juxtaposition that keeps Wolves moving forward towards its violent conclusion. Croze and Écoffey have since appeared in the same film: she was the rehab nurse in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly while he was one of the doctors. But here their screen time is equal and mostly together.
Wolves in the Snow also is reminiscent of last year's violent Russian gangster movie, Eastern Promises. Both films focus on an innocent woman drawn into an underworld of gangsters and criminals. Both highlight the marks and effects of sin, with dead bodies abounding. But whereas Eastern Promises goes overboard with the violence (seemingly violent for violence sake), Wolves uses it more sparingly and is, as a result, a more viewable and absorbing film, an interesting and atmospheric indie thriller.
With the descent into deception, Lucie illustrates the depravity that is so close to each of us, even inside the human heart. As Jeremiah says in his prophetic book, "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (Jer. 17:9). Her depravity, dormant as it was, sprung to life with her crime of passion.
Moreover, Wolves raises the question, can survival be based on lies? Lucie's life has been sheltered, and she has had no knowledge of the truths of Antoine's life and business. But with each lie she tells she pushes herself further down the path to destruction. Though she appears to be surviving, others are dying. True survival cannot be based on lies. Such survival is transitory, and will likely end unexpectedly, as Wolves does.
Whereas the truth from Antoine's lips pushed Lucie toward the confining darkness of deceit, the truth from Jesus will set us free from the confines of sin (John 8:32). Lying leads to a short-lived survival; living in the light of the truth leads to eternal life.
Copyright ©2008, Martin Baggs
at 7:00 AM