Cages is probably the most disappointing of the films I saw at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. That isn’t such a bad thing considering the astounding luck I’ve had this year. The action film Dog Bite Dog (Gau ngao gau) may have been astoundingly silly, but it did succeed in the violence department. Cages is an erotic thriller of sorts – though rather more subtle than we’ve come to expect – yet keeps drawing back from real tension in favour of something more wishy washy.
Eve (Anne Coesens) and Damien (Sagamore Stévenin) begin the film at the height of their relationship. When Eve suffers a near fatal accident, Damien is there every step of the way to help her recover. For some psychological reason, the accident has left Eve unable to talk, and this is where their troubles begin. The film is an examination of the unravelling of a relationship – love can only get the two of them so far in such trying circumstances. Damien starts to wonder if Eve will ever return to her old self and she becomes more and more stubborn as their situation becomes more and more precarious.
Unfortunately, this is as far as the film takes us. Whenever things started to get interesting, the characters pulled back. As regular readers will know, I’m always up for a good (even not so good) psychological thriller, and this film simply didn’t fulfil my expectations. As more of a thoughtful, dramatic piece it was lacking also, since I didn’t really like the protagonists enough. Early on Eve (Anne Coesens) was rather winsome, though as the film progressed she made some really strange decisions. As it stands, the film was weird enough to not work as a straight drama, and too wussy to really impress as a thriller.
The cinematography was beautiful, and ever since I saw the original Wicker Man the sight of a bunch of people in animal masks always sends a shiver down my spine. Coesens and Stévenin are a couple of talented stars who have the same earthy beauty, but all the prettiness in the world couldn’t save Cages from participating in too many compromises. I really wanted it to take a definite step in one direction, instead of a bunch of haltering half steps.Rating: