"Red Road": Big Sister Is Watching You By Matthieu Chéreau

in 24th Reykjavik International Film Festival

by Jacques Matthieu Chéreau

In Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, a woman works as a CCTV operator and spies all day long on peaceful Glaswegians. Sometimes she finds a clue, zooms in on a crime, follows a thief. But she is much more interested by a specific man. She scrutinizes his gestures, watches where he goes, and eventually follows him. I am not sure why she does that. We just go with her and discover this bleak universe made up of misery and concrete. Little by little, we don’t even wonder where she goes, or whom she follows. It is all about this strange suburban place that sets the rules and prevails, rather like in an Antonioni movie (i.e. L’Eclisse or La Notte). No signs, no words. No one talks about himself, his past or his desires. There are a few attempts that fail but appear as forms of violence. In this place, you keep everything to yourself, or you just throw yourself out of a window. Words are useless. And when there is something to say, to share or forgive, there is no word but sex. Sex, not as a symptom, but as a relief, or at least as a path towards it.

There are many questions to be posed such as why did this woman have sex with the man who killed her husband and child. There are no words to explain that, hence many interpretations. I like to think she died and was then reborn, or maybe it was some way of possessing him. Actually, I don’t care that much, because finally the most touching details lie in the conjunction between extreme sadness and extreme pleasure. This is the reason why the movie is so efficient, so tailor-made for film festivals. This is a commonplace in modern cinema: the fewer the words, the more it speaks to you. No words, no sign, no narration, you need a few bodies, strong and static frames, and of course some under-acting. Add an authentic belief in what you film, and then it’s done. It sounds like a recipe, but it’s a magical one.