“It’s young Lucy’s first day as a trainee in-house caregiver. She visits Mrs Jessel, an old woman who lies in cerebral coma, by herself, in her large desolate house. Learning by accident that Mrs Jessel, a former dance teacher of repute, supposedly possesses a treasure somewhere in the house, Lucy and friends William and Ben decide to search the house in the hope of finding it.
From the writing and directing duo of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury who brought us “Inside” comes their sophomore offering “Livid.” Deeply steeped in the Fantastique style this film walks a line between something you watch and something you experience. While you may have more questions than answers once it’s over you can certainly expect to be moved one way or the other.
It’s Lucie’s first day training to be an in-house nurse and is going to ride along with Catherine as she makes her rounds for the day. Lucie is a pretty girl and would be fairly unremarkable except for having two different colored eyes. Lucie, though quiet, shows she has a manner that sets those she has to care for at ease and it proves useful once they reach the last house on their rounds. Catherine tells her that this last patient is too much for her to handle on her first day and admonishes Lucie to stay in the car. Curiosity eventually gets the better of her and she makes her way up to the remote and dilapidated house where she finds Catherine with Mrs. Jessel.
Lucie’s curiosity serves her well as Catherine thinks her tenacity will help her make a fine nurse. As she lets Lucie tend to her duties, Catherine explains how Mrs. Jessel is in a catatonic coma but used to be a famous ballet instructor and taught out of her house. After Mrs. Jessel’s daughter Anna died, she became a recluse and is rumored to have a wealthy treasure hidden somewhere inside the house but has never been found.
Latter that night Lucie meets her boyfriend, William, to go have a drink where she tells him about her day and the treasure. William wants to seek out the treasure so that they can live a better life together. With their friend Ben, they drive out to the house that night to sneak in but once there Lucie begins to have trepidations. William urges them on saying they’ve come too far to stop eventually finding a way in through a basement window. Once inside they find the house to be eclectic but relatively treasure free until they discover a locked door to which the key is worn around Mrs. Jessel’s neck.
“Livid” becomes an increasingly strange and esoteric film laced with moody tension and shades steampunk. Elements of supernatural phenomena begin to occur but with an ethereal beauty that even pervades the more violent events. Many of the events will raise questions within the film and many of them will remain unanswered, but they all add to the tenor of the experience as the narrative stretches further from the reality we are comfortable with. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any sense to be made out from it; many aspects have a purpose and some of the unexplained even imply some meaning. The color of Lucie’s eyes are important to how the story unfolds, an enigmatic flame impacts the tone at the right moments and even a haphazardly discarded pair of scissors serves a purpose more than once.
The ubiquity of strange may turn some off some of the more pragmatic but isn’t really the weakest part. Lucie’s role is less of a protagonist attempting to achieve her own goals as she becomes a hapless passenger through a dangerous gauntlet. Somewhere along the line there was also a seeming shift from who’s story was actually being told and while it deepened the mystery I felt it lessened my engagement through to the end.
“Livid” is an experience that’s more like a haunting melody that you can’t quite recall than it is a movie to be watched. There’s enough ambiguity that everyone will take away from it their own personal meaning but the inherent obscurity will leave some touched, others stupefied and some disappointed. While you may risk not liking this film it’s a risk worth taking.
Livid (Livide) (2011)