The dead calm of the water harbours a deadly menace in Alain Guiraudie’s acclaimed thriller, which mixes highly charged eroticism with an enveloping intensity recalling the slow-burn suspense of Roman Polanski, Claude Chabrol and Alfred Hitchcock.
Arriving on BFI Player on 7 March, while it’s still playing in cinemas, Stranger by the Lake trails a string of awards and festival garlands in its wake; not least its two prizes from last year’s Cannes Film Festival and a slot in the top 10 of Sight and Sound’s best films of 2013 poll.
A dazzling highlight in recent gay cinema, Stranger by the Lake deserves to command the attention of a wider audience, as a fascinating and formally adventurous work that dares to resurrect the erotic thriller genre.
The film is set entirely within the strangely eerie milieu of a beach-side cruising ground, where bronzed male flesh is permanently on display and couples retreat endlessly to nearby woodland for sex. A charismatic stranger stirs the passions of one of the regulars, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), whose obsession grows even after the new arrival appears to have committed a violent crime.
The film mixes crime, comedy, explicit sex and escalating terror, defying convention at every turn. What at first may seem to be a cautionary tale about the deadly consequences of uninhibited promiscuity develops into a much more nuanced exploration of uncontrollable desire and criminal complicity.
Director Alain Guiraudie seems to have slipped under the radar during his 25-year filmmaking career, but Stranger by the Lake signals the emergence of an unheralded and brilliant talent.
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