Directed by: Dominik Moll
Written by: Gilles Marchand and Dominik Moll
Starring: Laure Calamy, Denis Menochet, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Damien Bonnard, Guy Roger N’Drin, Bastien Bouillon and Nadia Tereszkiewicz
Love, lust, deceit and socio-economic disparity are explored in Dominik Moll’s Fargo-like mystery thriller, Only the Animals. Borrowing from the Coen’s fixation on chance and coincidence, Boll has weaved a complex and beguiling murder mystery told from multiple perspectives. Unfortunately for Moll, he loses the run of himself and makes his picture one scene too long, almost ruining the thrilling and thought-provoking action that preceded it, relegating the film from great to good.
The Fargo (1996) comparisons might be a tad lazy. Moll sets his film in a remote French village. It is the middle of winter. A woman disappears in a snowstorm. Our protagonist (I use that term loosely here) Michel (Denis Menochet- who some will remember from the infamous opening scene of Inglorious Basterds (2009)) is a small town loser who gets in over his head, much like Willam H. Macy’s, Ned Flanders-like, Jerry Lundergaard in Fargo. There are four main suspects. Policeman Cedric Vigier (Bouillon) is on the case. If this is starting to sound like Agatha Christie, by way of the Coen Brothers, Moll has bigger issues on his mind than a simple who-dunnit. Namely, the socio-economic disparity between France and the African countries they colonised.
The supreme picture about French colonial guilt remains Michael Haneke’s Hidden (2005). However, Moll makes a good stab at similar themes. While Haneke’s film is firmly about guilt from the past catching up with you, Moll’s film is firmly about interpersonal relationships in the present. Moll switches his setting to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. A young man, Armand (N’Drin), living in poverty, must earn a living any way he can. The mother of his daughter is being wooed by a French bourgeois. He pledges against hope that he will give her more than his rival ever could.
Like Inarritu’s Death Trilogy (Amos Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006)) Moll’s characters are all interconnected, in this instance by the woman’s disappearance. Moll uses this premise to take his audience down some intriguing avenues of forbidden romance and internet fraud. In the end, he paints a bleak world, where everyone is on the take, yearning for something they cannot attain. However, the journey to unlock the mystery of the woman’s disappearance is enough to make this film a thoroughly enjoyable watch.