Private Property (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/04/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Slow-burning, well acted drama that's a little bit like watching a car crash in slow motion; it takes ages for anything to happen, but when it does, the result is devastating.

What's it all about?
Directed by Joaquim Lafosse, Private Property stars Isabelle Huppert as Pascale, who's raising her twin teenaged sons Thierry and Francois (real-life brothers Jeremie Renier and Yannick Renier) in a beautiful old farmhouse in Belgium. However, the family is still reeling from a bitter divorce and Thierry's constant sniping is beginning to take its toll on Pascale.

When Pascale tentatively begins a new relationship, she dreams of a new future and of selling the family home to buy a countryside B & B with her lover. However, Thierry reacts badly to the idea of selling up and the ensuing row causes Pascale to leave the boys on their own for a few days, a decision that has devastating consequences.

The Good
Lafosse shoots almost the entire film using a static camera and medium shots – as a result, there are almost no close-ups of the actors, meaning that the audience struggles a little to engage with them. However, the technique also serves to generate a real sense of tension and claustrophobia (the press notes quote Lafosse as saying he wanted the frame to be like a house that the characters can't leave), particularly during the increasingly fraught sequences where the family sit down to dinner.

The performances are fine, with Huppert and Jeremie Renier playing an interesting tug-of-war with the audience's sympathies – both characters can be extremely annoying, but you sense their underlying frustrations.

The Bad
That said, although there is an eventual pay-off to all the simmering tension, there are long, dull stretches in the middle where nothing happens (unless you count endless games of Ping-Pong) and Lafosse's static cameras and lack of close-ups are occasionally quite alienating, even for hardcore arthouse audiences.

Worth seeing?
Private Property eventually packs a powerful punch, but it takes so long to actually deliver it that you may lose interest before the end.

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Content updated: 20/07/2018 13:34

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