Directed by: Claire Denis.
Written by: Claire Denis & Jean-Pol Fargeau.
Starring: Vincent Gallo (Shane Brown), Tricia Vessey (June Brown), Béatrice Dalle (Coré), Alex Descas (Léo), Florence Loiret Caille (Christelle), Nicolas Duvauchelle (Erwan), Raphaël Neal (Ludo), José Garcia (Choart), Hélène Lapiower (Malécot), Marilu Marini (Friessen), Aurore Clément (Jeanne).
Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day is one of the most disturbing movies you will ever see – a bloody, sickening film that has two scenes of sex turning to bloody violence that will likely stick with you forever after seeing them. It is no wonder that the film has divided critics and audiences since it premiered at Cannes back in 2001 – it is certainly not an easy film to watch. It’s also true that it would be easy to poke holes in the plot of the film – which is admittedly fairly ridiculous if taken at face value – but Trouble Every Day works in spite of that plot. It’s a film that haunts you – stays in your head for days afterwards, even if you don’t want it there.
The plot of the movie follows two couples. The first one we meet are the French couple, Core (Beatrice Dalle) and Leo (Alex Descas). They live on the outskirts of Paris, in a big, empty house. When he has to leave the house, he locks her inside and makes her promise not to leave. He is keeping her prisoner – but it’s for her own good. If she gets out, there will be a mess to clean up – and he’ll have to do it. The second couple is Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June (Tricia Vessey) – newly married, and in Paris for their honeymoon. There is something not quite right about them – and it’s not just that he looks like Vincent Gallo and his most Vincent Gallo-esque (that is to say like a thug in a Death Wish movie) and she is almost the visual approximation of innocence, with her adorable pixie haircut. That part is intentional. It’s more to do with the fact that he won’t have sex with her – when they come close, he has to flee to the bathroom to masturbate as she bangs on the door wanting him to come out and talk to her. The other major character in the film is Christelle (Florence Loiret Caille), a young, beautiful maid at the hotel where Shane and June are staying. Denis captures Christelle at casually intimate moments, and from the beginning her camera sexualizes her in ways that make us know something with her is coming.
As you can probably guess, yes, Core and Shane, share the same affliction – although whether that makes them cannibals, vampires or something in between, I don’t know. The movie gives a complicated (and unnecessary) explanation about a science experiment gone wrong years ago – but it hardly matters. What matters is these two relationships, each one having a monster in it that takes different courses. Leo, of course, is trying to protect the woman he loves from herself – she cannot keep doing what she’s doing and getting away with it (as the movie shows us). Shane is trying to protect the woman he loves from himself – he loves her so much he could just eat her right up, literally. He thinks Leo can help him – and if he can’t, he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
The film is told in Denis typical, elliptical style. There isn’t a lot of dialogue for the first part of the movie – and the movie only hints at its darker secrets for about an hour or so. Denis likes to toy with the audience, but also trusts them to put together the pieces she is assembling all on their own. The last act of the movie gives you all the violence you can handle – and then some. It is just about the two bloodiest scenes I can recall in a movie, and they are not done in a cartoon like way either. These are long, bloody scenes that make you squirm – and then keep going and going.
Perhaps the most daring thing about the movie is that Denis asks us not to relate to the victims – or potential victims – but with the killer himself. Shane looks like a creep – but he’s really trying to be a good guy. He doesn’t want hurt anyone – and the terror in the film is about his terror of not being able to control himself. The victims, and potential victims, in the film have no idea they are being targeted until it’s too late. They have no fear – Shane does.
Trouble Every Day is a disturbing film. No, it doesn’t make all that much sense if you want to stop and think about the plot (how did Shane and June get to the point where they got married, without having sex. Why did he marry her in the first place if he wants to protect her. What the hell kind of research were they doing that led to this)? But those are logical questions for a movie that doesn’t require that level of logic to work. Denis is a filmmaker who likes the leave the audience shaken – and sometimes shocked. Her most recent films was Bastards – which was almost as disturbing as this one, and upends the tropes of film noir like this one does for horror. But the great thing about Denis films is there is something there behind the shock value – a sadder, more tragic core. Trouble Every Day is often linked the New French Extemity movement – films like Inside, Baise-moi, Enter the Void, Frontiere(s), Haute Tension, Ils, Irréversible and Martyrs – but I think it stands apart from them. Some of those films are good (Ils in particular ranks as one of the scariest films I have ever seen), some of them are awful (you couldn’t pay me to sit through Baise-Moi or Martyrs again), but all have shock value and scares at the forefront. Trouble Every Day doesn’t – and that makes it even more disturbing and tragic and memorable.