Lemming (2005)

“If I ever get like that, put me down.”

In the film Lemming engineer Alain Getty (Laurent Lucas) and his wife, Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are a happily married couple living in a nice, modern home in the suburbs. Alain invites his new boss, Richard Pollock (Andre Dussollier) and his wife Alice (Charlotte Rampling) to dinner one evening, and when the film begins, Benedicte is busy cooking dinner to impress the boss. It’s apparent, however, that something is wrong when the Pollocks don’t arrive on time, and then when they do turn up, they’re squabbling. Although Richard urbanely attempts to put a brave face on things and cover the embarrassing evening with a veneer of polite behaviour, Alice will not allow any escape into social niceties. Confrontational, and aggressive, Alice manages to ruin the evening and insult everyone into the bargain.

While Alain and Benedicte are still mulling over the after effects of the disastrous evening, Alain discovers a lemming stuck in his drainpipe. This bizarre event is the precursor of all the bizarre events to come–and Alain’s life rapidly slides into nightmarish territory with ghosts, murder, suicide and possession.

The thriller Lemming from German director Dominik Moll starts off very strongly, and the tension builds with each atmospheric scene. But somewhere along the way the film derails, and it fails to deliver its early strong promise. There are some interesting threads here–Alain, for example, is an engineer who develops home security systems to facilitate a smooth home life (in one scene, for example, he demonstrates a device which allows him to check a pipe leak in the bathroom from a distant location). The film seems to says–with a horrible irony–that all the devices in the world can never anticipate the disaster of human emotion–jealousy, rage, and passion–or comprehend the supernatural world. The problem with Lemming seems to be that the second half of the film never quite matches the power of the first half, and the explanation of the lemmings in the conclusion just belabors the point. All in all, Lemming is worth watching; it has its excellent moments, some surprising twists, and also its frustrating ambiguity. In French with English subtitles.


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