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TURIN 2016

The Eavesdropper: A political thriller with hints of Kafka


- The first feature by Thomas Kruithof tends to confuse, rather than explain the inner workings of the nerve centres of power

The Eavesdropper: A political thriller with hints of Kafka
François Cluzet in The Eavesdropper

The main character in the film by Thomas Kruithof, The Eavesdropper [+see also:
film profile
, in competition at the 34th Turin Film Festival, is Duval (François Cluzet), a middle-aged man who has been unemployed since having a nervous breakdown due to working too much – an illness commonly known as burnout. With no job and therefore leaving himself open to blackmail, he thus becomes a pawn in a political conspiracy that involves the secret service on one hand and a supposedly nationalistic party on the other, in the run-up to the presidential elections.

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The film is a political thriller with hints of Kafka and a complex screenplay that tends to confuse, rather than explain the inner workings of the nerve centres of power. The subject matter is searingly topical (the primary elections of the French right having just taken place), and it would have been better to examine this in more depth – but instead of developing the screenplay, the direction gets bogged down in the nitty-gritty, resulting in an overuse of cinematic detail.

Despite the film maintaining the requisite tension for a thriller over its entire running time, and Denis Podalydès’ excellent performance in the role of the baddy, the movie does not give the impression of interpreting the reality of politics: it spreads itself too thinly, touching only in passing on the deceptive use of miscellaneous news items and current affairs by the most unscrupulous politicians, and offers a rather bland vision of the powers of the French secret service. 

One can appreciate the film’s attempt to comment on various nationalist parties’ rise to power and the widescale use of surveillance to seize power, but the intertwining of the storylines of Duval’s private life (already full of problems to bursting point) and the affairs he gets caught up in just doesn’t work. This is a damning film that restricts itself to making lazy nods to other movies, and when all is said and done, it behaves in exactly the same way as the very politicians it sets out to portray: it fires into the crowd.

Produced by Thibault Gast and Matthias Weber for 24 - 25 film, and co-produced by Belgian outfit Scope Pictures, the movie will be distributed by Océan Films Distribution.

(Translated from Italian)

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