The Canadian Denis Villeneuve is one of the most sought-after Hollywood directors today. A man who films spectacles whose budgets amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the new “Blade Runner” or the new “Dune”, but in his own Quebec he went through the developmental path that all those involved in film should go through. He started by making short films, and before he became famous by making, in my opinion, one of the best films of the 21st century, “Incendies”, Villeneuve made mostly small, independent, artistic dramas. One such is “Maelstrom”, a surrealistic romantic drama, filmed, as far as I can see, under the influence of cinematic pessimism, but also the former dogmatic style of Lars von Trier, as much as Kieszlowski and his trilogy about colors and the grotesque that “Delicatessen” exudes, for example. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Equally, Villeneuve incorporated humorous and fantasy elements in “Maelstrom” (the narrator is, for example, a fish sliced by a rude grotesque butcher), and the center of attention is the depressed young entrepreneur and heir to the business empire Bibiane (the beautiful Marie – Josee Croze). She’s going to get into a relationship with a guy whose father she previously killed in a car accident after which she ran away and no one ever found out she did it. Even before she meets the son of the Norwegian fisherman whom she killed, she will become obsessed with this person and will try in every way to find out who it really is and sink into the dark corners of the psyche seasoned with alcohol, drugs and sexual adventures for one night. And then the fisherman’s son will appear to whom he will introduce himself as his late father’s neighbor and they will start a relationship.
Thanks to his interest in fatal traffic accidents and the psychological effect they have on the person who takes part in them, Villeneuve came up with the idea for this unusual, avant-garde and rather hermetic story. For the lead role, he hired Croze, who was almost completely unknown at the time, then a young actress of truly incredible beauty who looks like a real supermodel, and in the end she was chosen as the best Canadian actress of the year. “Maelstrom” premiered in the Panorama section of the festival in Berlin, where it received the film critics’ award for its innovative dramatic structure, playfulness and sensitivity. Although “Maelstrom” definitely does not belong to the top of the oeuvre of this extraordinary Canadian filmmaker, it is certainly a film that deserves attention and a great reminder of the beginnings of the career of the master who today is entrusted with the most demanding Hollywood spectacles.