Shock Waves: First Name Mathieu
Ondes de choc—Prénom: Mathieu
Contemporary World Cinema
Maxime Gorbatchevsky plays the title role in this chilling but empathetic drama, set in rural Switzerland in 1986. Mathieu is a 17-year-old survivor of rape and attempted murder--and all signs point to the perpetrator being a serial killer. Repeatedly questioned by the avuncular Inspector Jotterand (Michel Vuillermoz), the protagonist struggles to reconstruct the horrific incident and describe his assailant; meanwhile, his family tries in vain to balance their sympathy with their profound discomfort. Director Lionel Baier's film is charged with suspense: as we wait for Mathieu to make a breakthrough, every awkward glance from a neighbour, every verbal exchange, every rote human gesture seems shot through with its own unnameable danger. Smart, brave and inquisitive, the teen shows little desire for revenge; what he seems to want most is to speak with his assailant. As much as his suffering, it’s his desire for communication that generates the most pathos--and the most tension.