Directed by: #JulienBotzanowski
Written by: Julien Botzanowski
Trauma can manifest itself in many ways both physical and psychological, sometimes it can be dismissed as a fleeting headache, other times it becomes an unstoppable nightmare. The pain comes all the same; the result of an awful event that doesn’t quite leave you, in horror films the monster is a representation of that pain or fear that plagues us all, connecting our own terror to that of the protagonist. In Julien Botzanowski’s Tranches de Vi, the reason for torment is a mystery as the film focuses more as a character study than a continuously loaded jump scare (though it has a few to use). Victor, an aimless womaniser seen as a burden by friends and family begins to experience disturbing hallucinations in the wake of a new romantic relationship with a man, Lionel. These apparitions become more visceral as the two become more emotionally attached until it all reaches a breaking point.
Victor comes across as unsympathetic with his behaviour towards his friends and others, but Fabien Ara’s performance keeps an intrigue to him especially with his more vulnerable scenes with Lionel. Botzanowski’s direction of the actors is terrific, with scenes flowing smoothly due to charming cast chemistry, even passing characters are able to pop off the screen. The script and pacing, however, leaves the film’s thematic intentions a little unclear; the hallucinations mostly display themselves around a wardrobe in Victor’s bedroom suggesting its symbolism to Victor being ‘closeted’ in his sexuality. As he and Lionel grow closer, the stronger these apparitions become, even affecting Lionel himself but the line between psychological and supernatural horror remains blurred until the climax. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Botzanowski shifts gears and while the true nature of the monster makes sense, it does feel a little underdeveloped and needed more direct focus in the earlier parts of the narrative.
A lot of Tranches de Vi feels like its dragging, a bit repetitive in how Victor experiences a hallucination and acts out. It is all building towards something with steady escalation but the horror begins to get stale and Victor alienating people around him becomes an unsurprising norm. It doesn’t flow smoothly together but sequences that focus on Lionel and Victor’s relationship along with a few horror moments really get the audience invested. The horror and monster itself is nothing ingenious, relying on light switch jump scares but the editing does get under the skin, making you dread whenever Victor has one of his episodes. Though the big confrontation undoes this goodwill as it feels more like B-movie schlock than intense psychological horror, undercutting the emotional context. Botzanowski has interesting ideas in his screenplay but they are muddled between tired pacing and confusing execution. Victor’s struggles against his monsters has its emotional weight but the journey at times can become a struggle to get through for the audience.
There’s no easy way through trauma and Tranches de Vi uses its heightened genre elements to explore and confront that difficulty to face it head-on. It’s not pretty, faltering in places as Botzanowski’s vision would benefit from a more solid structure and control of tone, especially with its difficult subject matter in the latter half. Though the performances and ideas keep the film interesting, with revelations pulling you back in when the film loses its momentum.