L’Inconnu Du Lac / Stranger By The Lake (2013)

SUMMARY. Summertime. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel. An attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this, but wants to live out his passion anyway.
Thank God Q! Film Festival brought this as one of their line up, because there’s simply no way they would brought this to Indonesian cinema, not only because it’s LGBT content, but also the amount of nudity in it. Coming from Un Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival this year, is a gay erotic thriller by Alain Guiraudie’ L’Inconnu Du Lac (Stranger by The Lake).
The whole film set in a tranquil outdoor setting, an anonymous lake that become a cruising spot for men who sleep with men. Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) found an unlikely, platonic friendship with a Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), a stranger he met and randomly struck a conversation with. Then he met another stranger, Michel (Christophe Paou) gorgeous (even with his 70s pornstache), golden tanned skin, and possibly lethal, but let’s be real we are naturally attracted to bad sometimes. Franck initial lust quickly turns into love, even after learning a grim truth about Michel. But Michel did not want to take their relationship outside of The Lake, to dinner or spending a night together in bed, “It’ll made me lost the excitement too quickly” he reasoned.
The film seamlessly transformed from its languid, serene atmosphere, sometimes with light humor, into becoming an ominous background as the story got progressively darker as the grim mystery started to unfold. The Lake is like it’s own character of the film, becoming the only location for all the scenes in the film. We transitioned day-to-day with a different characters milling around The Lake, men of various ages looking for a quiet time alone, sunbathing and taking a swim, an anonymous promiscuity in the bushes, or just looking around within a nudist-voyeur context or not. It created a sense of otherworldliness, as if The Lake is its own cocoon, and the men is part of the ecosystem. Perhaps the single set and this constrained element made the film even more interesting. We saw the characters in this controlled environment, we have very little idea about how their life outside of The Lake is, and isn’t that just add another fascinating layer to the mystery and goes well with the psychological twist at the very end?
The film probably serve as a parallel towards the general homosexual behaviour when it comes to HIV/AIDS and a fascinating look for carnal lust and romantic desire. Issues that i probably only have an outside knowledge of, but i found Franck fascination with Michel almost like a symbolism of relentless bug-chaser, either it was done for extreme intimacy or for the thrill of living at the edge. Stripped from all its beauty, The Lake is a cruising spot for these men to have anonymous hook-ups. Cruising place for random anonymous hook-ups and one-night flings is a huge part in gay subculture. It can happen in a public toilet, a bathhouse, or like what showcased in Alain Guiraudie’s L’Inconnu Du Lac: an outdoor lake. In his interview with MIFF, Guiraudie wanted to explore the outdoor aspect of gay culture, most of films took an indoor settings, within the four-walls, which somehow made me wonder if it made the genre somewhat more confined and in a way, closeted.
L’Inconnu Du Lac is definitely a very gripping film. The narrative itself was strong, it was held down by good performances of the actors, and enhanced by its photography, sounds and editing. The use of atmospheric sounds of enhanced the film’s intensity: using animal cries, splashing waters, cruching of gravels and grass to contribute to the moods set by the picture. The dreamlike beauty of the lake and the realism of the characters was well captured by cinematographer Clair Mathon. Something very restrained and naturalist manage to keep this film from crossing the line of becoming some sort of soft-core porn or idealized/romanticized idea of sex. Something that is hard to do with the amount of nudity and graphic sex depicted in the film. With a mysterious twist that reminds me of Hitchcock’s noir, the film is so carefully balanced and hypnotizes the audience in its romance and thriller alike.

L’Inconnu Du Lac is the winner of this year’s Queer Palm (previously won by Araki’s Kaboom in 2010, Skoonheid in 2011, and Dolan’s Laurence Anyways in 2012). It also competes in Un Certain Regard Grand Prix and won the Prix de la Mise en Scène (Best Directing) for Guiraudie.


GENRE Drama, LGBT, Thriller, Romance
DIRECTOR Alain Guiraudie | PRODUCER Sylvie Pialat, Benoît Quainon, Gilles Sitbon | WRITER Alain Guiraudie | SOUND Nathalie Vidal, Philippe Grivel | CINEMATOGRAPHER Claire Mathon | EDITOR Jean-Christophe Hym | DISTRIBUTOR Les Films du Losange, Strand Releasing | COUNTRY French | RUNNING TIME 92 minutes | RELEASE May 17, 2013 (Cannes), June 12, 2013
STARRING Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Pattrick D’Assumçao

Stills are partially from IMDb | Trailer

This movie was screened as a part of Q! Film Festival in Jakarta.


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