Stranger By The Lake


Stranger By The Lake is an intriguing film. Capturing the simple beauty of nature, observing quietly and candidly its characters, Alain Guiraudie’s work could certainly be seen as naturalistic. The camera often stands still, whether it’s to listen to conversations, follow a swimmer in the lake or watch those naked bodies. Every day is shown as a ritual, which starts and ends at a parking near the lake. The film never leaves this little beach where men lay naked, hook up and sometimes die. While this bare setting might look simple at first, it quickly makes us absorb the atmosphere: we not only feel the loneliness of these characters but also their nonchalance and casual manners.

Stranger By The Lake is also a crime film, which echoes the works of Claude Chabrol (Inspector Bellamy). The apparent peacefulness of this microcosm and closed environment is shattered by some murders. An old inspector comes to investigate, looking like a fish out of water because he’s the only one wearing clothes and doesn’t understand that world. Suspense is not what matters here as we know who is behind the murders; what’s important is how it affects the characters, some worrying while others remain indifferent.

Finally, Stranger By The Lake is an openly gay film, which assumes its nudity and crude sex scenes. The question you might be wondering is whether this film can transcend its assumed sexual identity to reach a wider audience, beyond its gay boundaries and to be frank, I don’t have an answer to this. What I can tell you is that these scenes are an intrinsic part of this story and you need to experience them to appreciate the singularity of this film.

But what I found the most interesting about Stranger By The Lake are the little conversations between Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), the central character who’s been coming here every year and Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), a recently divorced and out of shape middle-aged man who’s just here to look for friendship. Contrasting with how easily men hook up for sex on the beach, Franck and Henri slowly develop a relationship that looks like dating but remains platonic. I was also amused by a couple characters such as one guy looking for naked women and a masturbator who pops up wherever there is some action.

Most French critics – at least the ones who matter – have been praising Stranger By The Lake, almost assimilating it to a masterpiece but I wouldn’t go that far. This is a strong, brave, singular work but its eventful nature, as an explicit gay film going mainstream, might somewhat amplify its importance.

Director: Alain Guiraudie – Actors: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou – Running Time: 1:37 – Year: 2013 – Country: France

Watch the film’s trailer below:

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.

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