The review of A Family Vice (L’Origine du Mal), the film by Sébastien Marnier in cinemas from 4 January 2023 with I Wonder Pictures and Unipol Biografilm Collection.
Presented in world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival in the Orizzonte Extra section, The origin of Mal (poorly translated in Italy, A family vice), third feature film written and directed by Sebastien Marniersoon to be distributed in local theaters by I Wonder Pictures, seems to bring us back to a certain model of slightly tacky erotic thriller cinema, albeit very black lately so rare to find in the cinema and which not too many years ago seemed to crowd certain television stations at night.
Now in his third feature film, Sébastien Marnier, a young and very interesting French director, screenwriter and writer, after the excellent and very black The last hour which was linked to aspects that were in some ways supernatural and the least successful Irreproachableis interested this time in an all-female (or almost) model of cinema that seems to sink its teeth into the cinematographic material of authors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michael Haneke and Thomas Vinterbergreflecting as much on the struggle between classes as on the family and therefore chorality, as an entity capable of generating the most absolute and fearsome evil in the face of any other.
Marnier, interested in the analysis and construction of a fragmented female character, ambiguous and in conflict with herself – and then with others – in the constant search for protection, which can be identified in a human figure rather than in a house , considering its constantly mysterious nature since it is linked to a logic of exploitation and request, precisely because it lacks any real support or solidity in life, creates a sort of ghostly or at least hybrid and invisible figure, capable of adapting to any condition, changing itself and putting on the clothes of someone – or something – that in fact it is not, without however appearing, disappearing between identities.
The most likely successful narrative game of The origin of Mal it can easily be identified in this reflection on a skilful and petty abstract identity which, by exploiting constantly changing external conditions, is capable of wearing clothes that not only do not belong to it, but which it studies or simulates, appealing to the stories or events of others. An identity that soon becomes a devourer of many other identities and that in some ways seems to refer to the theme of the double, eternally revisited by horror cinema.
In fact, Stéphane (Laure Calamy), convinced of leading an extremely banal and reductive everyday life compared to what her aspirations have created in her mind, frequents women who she never ceases to exploit, sucking from them stories, events and lives in the hope of being able to accomplish that leap in addition that for so many years he has been looking for. A leap that probably her fellow prisoner offers her without wanting to.
Evil Runs in the Family – Destabilization and Upside Down in A family vice
Having found his family of origin therefore, Stéphane is allowed to look at power dynamics that he would never have expected to have to face. Indeed Serge (Jacques Weber), the now elderly billionaire father, is not only the victim of a never really named degenerative disease, but he is also – and above all – the victim of the female figures in his family, increasingly hungry for money and fame, from George (Dora Tiller), the entrepreneurial daughter, to Louise (Dominique Blanc), the diabolical wife who, in order to make him suffer, punishes him by compulsively buying any kind of good, which then ends up in a basement full of parcels, boxes and sacks, observed and lightened daily by the housekeeper Agnes (Véronique Ruggia-Saura), unbeknownst to the family.
If at first Stéphane seems to find himself faced with a condition of abuse and perverse psychological torture, it is only as the film progresses that Sébastien Marner reveals all his cards, ferociously destabilizing the viewer through a reversal of roles and dynamics capable of changing a once and for all L’origine Du Mal, from social drama to tense psychological thriller.
In a curious encounter between multiple cinematographies so distant – albeit in dialogue – with each other as those of Almodóvar Fassbinder, Haneke and Vinterberg, L’origine du Mal strong in a narration in continuous unveiling, and of characters never clearly delineated therefore hidden in the shadows, between sadism, perversion and violence, it entertains and conquers, reasoning on the family as an entity capable of generate the worst evil, the atavistic, immortal and ever changing one, therefore invisible, underground yet perceptible, just as it is invisible, sneaky and perceptible Stéphane.
From the destruction of the patriarchal system, to the derision of machist logics in some ways parodic, since it was derided at first and exploited through this corrupt and dangerous femininity in a second time, up to the ambiguity of identity roles and the certainly interesting and very black choice of a scenario populated only by antagonistic figures. What distinguishes Marnier’s film from any other on the current international scene is precisely this, the desire to tell the feminine solely as diabolical and perverse, challenging the current conditions generated by the Me Too.
A film from other times, which between soft eroticism, family drama and psychological thriller, explores the dark sides of both the female mind and the family as an identity and elite nucleus, capable of guaranteeing protection and power in the face of any wrongdoing and act of violence , generating it in turn, through deception and lies.
Evil is in the family, this seems to affirm Sébastien Marnier, an increasingly anomalous and interesting filmmaker, linked to an idea of dark, ambiguous, ferocious, extremely technical (interesting continuous use of split screen) and nihilistic cinema that is difficult to find elsewhere .