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Heartbeat Detector

Simon (Mathieu Amalric) has been working more-or-less happily for seven years as a psychologist in the Paris subsidiary of a German multinational. He copes well with the pressures of writing staff reports and running seminars for executives, and lets his hair down at late-night raves and by engaging in an active, varied sex-life.

But then Simon is assigned to investigate the mental state of his chief executive (an impressive Michael Lonsdale, of Bond villain fame) by means of the initially bizarre ruse of reforming the old man’s string quartet. He slowly discovers dark company secrets that stretch backto the Nazi era and policies regarding ‘the Jewish question’ that not only threaten his own frail psychological well-being but also, more worryingly, his ability to function as a ‘good soldier’ in defence of his company’s corporate dream.

Radical director Nicolas Klotz and his filmmaking partner Elisabeth Perceval realise here a menacing script which is based on François Emmanuel’s novel and which might, in other hands, seem schematic, conspiracy-obsessed or even downright paranoid. They have managed to fashion a dystopian thriller as chilling, atmospheric and relevant as anything French cinema has produced since Godard’s ‘Alphaville’. Unashamedly political and frankly provocative, their film is clearly intended as a poison dart aimed at what they see as the insidious inherent fascism of modern corporate culture.

Perceval and Klotz’s film presents a fascinating collision of two fertile recent sub-genres in French cinema – the cinema of ‘anxiety’ and those films, such as Laurent Cantet’s ‘Human Resources’, which closely examine the realities of the modern workplace. However, ‘Heartbeat Detector’ is more experimental. It moves away from realism towards more expressionist cinematic stylings – notably in its uses of sound, music and non-language based communication – that, at their best, bounce delicious contemporary echoes of Clouzot’s dark misanthropy and Franju’s poetic surrealism.

The price may be a certain obscurity – and an unwelcome magisterial pomposity – but there’s few movies in town as original, challenging or, possibly, upsetting.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday May 16 2008
Duration: 143 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nicolas Klotz
Screenwriter: Elisabeth Perceval
Cast: Mathieu Amalric
Michael Lonsdale
Jean-Pierre Kalfon
Edith Scob
Lou Castel
Valérie Dréville
Laetitia Spigarelli
Delphine Chuillot
Nicolas Maury
Rémy Carpentier

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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Tim

I completely disagree. This is one of the most challenging and compelling films I've seen in a long time. It looks at the Holocaust from a very relevant angle: not a isolated event in time, as some historians and well-meaning sorts would have us believe, but an ideology firmly rooted in the past and still very much alive. An uncomfortable truth, for sure. One which highly redeems the clunkiness in parts. Amalric and Lonsdale are both incredible and believable. A thought-provoking gem and magistral piece. See for yourself.

Tim

I completely disagree. This is one of the most challenging and compelling films I've seen in a long time. It looks at the Holocaust from a very relevant angle: not a isolated event in time, as some historians and well-meaning sorts would have us believe, but an ideology firmly rooted in the past and still very much alive. An uncomfortable truth, for sure. One which highly redeems the clunkiness in parts. Amalric and Lonsdale are both incredible and believable. A thought-provoking gem and magistral piece. See for yourself.

mckindo

I wholeheartedly agree with the above comment, and can only marvel that Time Out has heaped praise upon this empty pretext of a film (regrettably, this occurs with some regularity). Chalk it up to another swipe by the French intelligensia at "American-style" capitalism and all its resultant evils. I eagerly await the unveiling of a viable alternative social system by this group, which should be soon given the precarious state of France's economy.

Oli

This is the most pretentious film you will see all year. It crudely exploits the holocaust in order to adopt greater meaningfulness, but the whole process is so tightly rammed up its own fundament that it devalues the subject matter and leaves you feeling that they have cheapened such a serious topic. It is a grossly fragmented and rambling story with clunking dialogue of the sort you might expect in a fifth former's improvisation class. Best avoided.