Dir: Lucas Belvaux

Rating: 3.6/5.0

Lorber Films

125 Minutes

The opening of Lucas Belvaux’s Rapt introduces the life of Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal) in a rush. Clearly a high-powered businessman, he moves briskly through his day from work to a meeting with politicians to a rendezvous with his mistress and then an evening with his family. This is a man, it seems, who barely stops for anyone; excusing himself from dinner seemingly moments after first lifting the napkin from the table. The only way he’ll halt his forward momentum is by force, and that’s exactly what happens.

One morning, Stanislas is kidnapped. He’s bound and shoved into a pup tent in the middle of big empty room, only pulled out to forcibly write letters to his loved ones and associates conveying the seriousness of his situation. “She needs to cry,” a masked man coaches Stanislas when he’s writing a pleading note to his oldest daughter. Convinced his station in life means he has access to untold wealth, his kidnappers want 50 million Euros. To prove they’re serious, they lop off one of his fingers and drop it in an envelope. More body parts will follow, they promise, if their demands aren’t met promptly and fully.

Writer-director Belvaux presents this situation with the wealth of detail of a true procedural, making the audience privy to boardroom debates at the company where Stanislas serves as chairman and bickering amongst various authorities trying to determine the best way to bring the criminals to justice while preserving the life of the man who’s been abducted. It’s not a film mired in details, but it is respectful of their value. Belvaux takes great pains to avoid presenting his story in a sensationalized manner.

Sensationalism is one of his fascinations, though. Once Stanislas’ kidnapping makes the newspapers, sordid facts about his privileged life begin to emerge, including massive gambling debts and a number of extramarital affairs. This shifts the dynamic of the situation as the natural sympathy for the victim is compromised by ire over his decadent, irresponsible lifestyle. Politicians publicly chastise him to avoid losing the ability to impose their austerity measures on the populace, sure that the ugly publicity will ignite class resentment towards those in power.

Belvaux may take some swings at larger social issues, but he only lands glancing blows. The film is sharpest when it hones in on the family anguished by their lost loved one, but also damaged by having his ugliest behaviors become daily fodder for the press. Anne Consigny plays his wife Françoise with a fragile but impressive resolve, constantly steeling herself anew as a fresh indignity arises. When she does let her emotions out, it’s like a burst of heated air suddenly escaping from a punctured tire. Consigny carries the character expertly through her simmering agony.

By the time Belvaux gets to the aftermath of the crime, he’s constructed a moral universe as heated and tangled as a batch of wire hangers retrieved from a cycle in the dryer. The final passage of the film is both fascinating and frustrating, the latter quality largely due to the most complex scenes being predicated on a lack of personal change that isn’t explored with quite enough rigor to be fully plausible. In a way, that stumble is a testament to the quality of earlier scenes that depicted the grueling conditions that Stanislas endured. The personal rebuilding process seems to require a little more than what Belvaux affords in trying to demonstrate the slippery ways that circumstances can change around a person. Good as Rapt often is, in the end it introduces more than it can properly grapple with. There’s a whole other movie in its final passage, one with the time to burrow deeply into the compromised lives of its characters and discover the new truths they need to create.

by Dan Seeger

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