This ten-minute short belongs to Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, an anthology where filmmakers contributed films that depicted their thoughts of the millennium. For her selection, Vers Nancy, Claire Denis starts to build on the idea of the intruder, not so much an actual physical being, but more of a conceptual idea that manifests in many different forms.
Vers is shot entirely in black-and-white, giving the philosophical conversation taking place between on a train between a woman Jean-Luc Nancy a stark feel. What is supposed to be a topic with many shades of grey is, cleverly, delineated by its black-and-whiteness. Complicating matters further is a black man (Alex Descas) who has apparently listening in on their discussion, silent even when the woman brings up her hopes that she can integrate into France seamlessly because of her skin colour.
The intrusion, then, solidifies its form as an intangible concept living in many shapes, whether it’s a talk between two people or the hope/failure of assimilation.
L’intrus (The Intruder)
L’intrus is a feast for the senses, but not in the typical visible way. Rather, director Claire Denis indulges in quiet extravagance by displaying that which emerges from breaking-down vessels. Louis Trebor (Michel Subor) is the first and most obvious one, a weather-worn aging soldier who begins the movie by suffering from a mild heart attack after swimming in a pond. His body is failing him, but he’s determined to find new life on the black market, a system that allows for it by emerging from the ruins of a healthcare system that should work as it’s designed to.
As Denis has a habit of choosing the titles of her films with great care and thought, “the intruder” manifests in several ways: Louis’s estranged son, Sidney (Grégoire Colin), living close by, is an intruder onto his father’s conscience; his body begins to reject the new heart, treating the organ like an intruder; and Louis himself is an intruder both when his attraction to a local dog breeder is unrequited, and when he travels to the South Seas in search of his long-lost Tahitian son. No person or thing seems to find the place in which they belong in Denis’s movie, encroaching on territory they all think they belong to.
Like other Denis films, such as Chocolat, the narrative travels seemingly wherever it wants, intruding on the viewer’s sense of time and space. There is no clear anchoring to much, ranging from the source of Louis’s money to the cause of his ailing heart, and all the relationships in between.
But like any good mystery, the delight lies in the journey, not the destination.