Review by Conall Cash (catabloguing.wordpress.com)
The third feature directed by Philippe Grandrieux, A Lake is an astonishing, almost unbearably passionate film; it is unlike anything I have ever seen. The film alienated most of the audience that ventured into the small cinema at ACMI last night – roughly a quarter walked out during the screening, and afterwards I heard at least three groups of viewers express anger, confusion, resentment and dismissal. Such responses are understandable, particularly from the uninitiated, for Grandrieux’s film offers nothing at the level of what commonly goes for ‘cinematic appreciation’: utterly unapproachable in terms of characterization, narrative development or ‘good directing’ (well-constructed scenes made up of a sequence of artfully designed shots, with the elements of the scene and their relation to the positioning of the camera reflecting or emphasizing the nature of the narrative situation or the psychology of the characters), A Lake strives for an elementality not heard of in the cinema since F.W. Murnau’s 1927 masterpiece, Sunrise.
It would be ludicrous to judge the film in terms of whether or not it succeeds in this endeavour (inevitably, it does and it does not), rather what it requires, what it asks of its viewer is a kind of accession to the incredible passion with which the attempt is made – or what another, very dissimilar film I saw yesterday would call “love exposure”. This is a difficult thing to ask for and, as was made apparent by the response yesterday, a difficult thing for a viewer to say yes to. But we are fortunate to be living at a time when a filmmaker is asking these questions, making these requests of us.