Black Heaven (Cert. 18)

1 Disc (Ditributor: Arrow Films) Running Time: 105 minutes

Whilst on a summer trip to the beach young couple Gaspard (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) and Marion (Pauline Etienne) discover a lost mobile phone with photos of a blonde woman named Sam (Louise Bourgoin) and intriguing messages about a meeting. They track the phone owner down at the meeting place to discover him and the blonde woman gassing themselves in a car. They save the girl but the man dies. Gaspard finds a camcorder which he takes home and watches, becoming infatuated with the woman. A chance meeting with Sam, real name Audrey, introduces Gaspard to Black Hole and online virtual reality game in which he is soon to be firmly ensconced, putting his real life in danger.

Okay, I admit I was drawn to this techno-noir outing because the luscious Miss Bourgoin was in it and was rewarded with an interesting but flawed take on the dangers of virtual reality life encroaching on real life. It comes from the minds of writer/directors Gilles Marchand and Dominik Moll (previously known for Lemming, Harry, He’s Here To Help), the former taking helming duties this time round. The plot has a few holes which leave the viewers to make a number of assumptions when the big twist arrives at the end and to fill in the blanks themselves which might backfire as the possibilities are many.

Everything seems peachy between Gaspard and Marion until Gaspard becomes infatuated with Sam/Audrey. Things aren’t so straightforward as Audrey’s protective big brother Vincent (Melvil Poupard) warns Gaspard away from Audrey since she is something of a depressive who whiles her days away online, but that doesn’t stop them enjoying some illicit liaisons within the world of the virtual Black Hole, which has its own way of living. It is here that both Audrey and Gaspard adopt new and more exciting persona, the former beguiling and enchanting the latter with a sexual if dangerous mystique. This gradually comes at the expense of Gaspard’s real life as he ends up alienating himself from his sweet and dependable girlfriend Marion and his other friends in close syncopation with his growing obsession with  Audrey and the depth of trouble h finds himself in with Vincent.

Where the film starts to falter is in the middle section which should have focused on the exploration of Gaspard’s submergence into the Black Hole to feed his infatuation with Audrey. Instead this is only plays a small part in Gaspard’s downfall which isn’t that much of a drop thus the threat is limited to Vincent’s interference in his sister’s life, which is given a boost by the plot twist. It’s a little difficult to proceed with the story recap without spoiling everything but its a clever one which alters the entire landscape of the plot.

Despite the shortcomings in the script, the acting is strong with the young cast immersing themselves into their characters. Former TV weather girl turned actress Louise Bourgoin successfully manages to be effective in her portrayal of both sides of her complex character – radiating unbridled sexuality one minute then drowning in a sea of depression and ennui the next. Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet is the perfect foil for the enigmatic Audrey while Melvil Poupard has a quiet menace about him as the domineering Vincent. On the prduction front, the graphics for the online scenes defy the conventional “online game” look for something a lot more flashier and conveniently movie escapism friendly. Since this arrived on UK shores not long after the release of Tron:Legacy, one can see the difference a big budget can make on the CGI front, but anything flashier would have seemed to much for this film, since it has to contrast with the sunny climes and picturesque nightlife of the south of France whilst remaining credible.

This has a lot going for it but trips up over itself too much along the way although the end result is not that unsatisfying. If one can get over the little niggles there is something darkly mystifying (and not just Mlle Bourgoin in a black wig) to enjoy here.


English Subtitles

Ratings – Main feature ***/5

Man In Black