DVD review: Just Another Love Story (2007)

25 Apr

Nightwatch director Ole Bornedal subjects reviewer Ben Buckingham to a violent noir vision of love forgotten, masqueraded, and remembered in Just Another Love Story.


Jonas, a man who dreams of faraway places, who sleeps besides a lovely wife and a stack of National Geographics, finds himself to be as dead inside as the bodies he photographs as a crime scene photographer. Going through the motions, spending time with his slightly crazy cop friends, making small talk with his wife and entertaining his children, he stumbles through each day until his stalled car causes a brutal car accident in which his family is unscathed yet almost everyone else die – except for the manic and damaged Julia. Jonas, with the unaware inevitability of all noir heroes, is drawn into her life by pretending to be Sebastian, the boyfriend Julia’s family never met and whom she has seemingly forgotten. We the audience now this can’t end well. Asides from the usual (and name checked) noir clichés, we’ve also seen Julia shoot her boyfriend in some kind of failed suicide pact while holidaying in Asia.

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This act of murder is one of three brief scenes of failed passion and death which open the film, each featuring the intertitle of ‘Love Scene Number 1’ through to ‘3’. One is reminded of a line from Se7en: “look at all that passion on the wall”. Just Another Love Story is another story of the shock and awe of passion, at 4000km per second into the heart and decorating the wall in crimson tones. It is a film with a passion for noir, a passion that almost leads it to self-aware celluloid destruction as it attempts to juggle the clichés of a long past Hollywood genre.

Within twenty minutes it had almost completely lost me.

While the performances are strong and believable throughout, the overwrought dialogue in the early scenes, as recited by overly aware damaged souls, does its best to sink the narrative. Extensive use of traditional rear-projection techniques to demonstrate the thoughts or emotions of characters comes off as lazy and too self-referential. A ridiculously overdone car accident scene shot from within Julia’s car bores, while the split-second real-world version shown a few minutes later is horrifying. The ruthlessly ‘artistic’ images inserted into backgrounds match nicely with obvious and tedious dialogue referring to film noir and movie clichés. The artlessness of these moments seeps into the surrounding scenes causing everything to feel overly artificial.

One particular scene is so uneven in tone that it becomes perplexing as to its intent. Having conned his way into Julia’s hospital room, Jonas is made to communicate with and then kiss Julia by her family in order to draw her out of a coma. She is exposed to all, nude, a corpse waiting to happen, still bruised & bloodied, with assorted tubes distorting her form. The family hovers at the doorway, eager & happy, while he struggles to keep his eyes off her breasts. On the soundtrack we can hear the laughter of a cop to whom he is recounting the story. Well, is it farce? Is it horror? Is it drama? Yet it is from this moment that the film began to draw me back in, to suggest that there is an intelligent creative force behind these decisions. The self-awareness settles down and the film begins to properly tell the story, one in which the subjective experience is paramount. This uneven hospital scene is played out with all the various hopes, fears and desires crowding for attention, and while it is perhaps less than successful it cannot be called boring. The daft fantasy of artificial film techniques fall away as the events unfolding in the hospital room, the world of Julia & Sebastian/Jonas, become the only fantasy the film requires. The words falling from their lips begin to sound like the real fears and doubts, and we truly begin to care about these characters as they make their way towards to the inevitable noir ending.

Perhaps it is a film which rewards multiple viewings, not because of a twist in the narrative but rather for its unusual deployment of humanity and art. Truth and lies become overlapping, artifice and fact become allies, as these characters attempt to build something out of the wreckage they have wrought upon themselves. The friction of fantasy and reality creates intrigue, drawing characters out into the open and aligning them upon a collision course which is deeply thought provoking and playful while never letting go of how deeply unsettling these events are.

Ben Buckingham

Links:

J.A.L.S official website

Mr Buckingham’s CineCultania Blog and Podcast

J.A.L.S. distributed locally through Madman

The Guardian review of J.A.L.S.


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One Response to “DVD review: Just Another Love Story (2007)”

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