The Dreamlife of Angels
Directed by Erick Zonca
Starring Elodie Bouchez, Natacha Regnier
Rated R – France, 1998, 113 min., In French with English subtitles
Isa (Elodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natacha Regnier) are thrown together by a just slightly less than hideous job in grimy Lille. Isa, the resourceful survivor, can always make something, anything, happen to scrape along. Marie, the perma-victim, sullenly accepts whatever life throws her way — no money, multiple creepy boyfriends, and hard-up Isa. While house-sitting the flat of comatose mother and daughter accident victims, they meet a couple of big bouncers. While they don’t exactly fall in love with these two lugs, Marie, at least, has some of the worst sex of her life. That is, until she hooks up with rich boy Charlie. He doesn’t love her either, but Marie accepts a rape or two before he discards her like an empty beer can. Isa spends her time with the comatose girl, reading the girl’s diary until she shows some sign of awareness. Eventually, both must leave when the flat sells. Marie jumps out a second story window to her death, and that’s all, folks.
Grimy and real, the film captures two women becoming good friends, only to spin apart a short time later. Men are the problem, but only at the periphery. Money is short, but not so short that they can’t buy a pack of smokes. Jealousy never peeks from behind the curtains. Marie’s need to be loved, accepted, wanted by anyone, no matter how bad it makes her feel, drives the wedge home. Isa accepts the split, drifting along. Poor Marie melts down, and when no one can make her feel any worse, she ends it.
Set in a gray northern European winter, the cast does a yeoman’s job representing the marginalized working class. The daily disappointments and triumphs of life become magnified, and until the very end, they overwhelm the film, leaving you to wonder where the director is taking you. Marie’s plunge wakes you from your daze, and as you step out into the cool night, you ask “Was it really THAT bad?”