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Frankiel, R.V. (2002). Film Review Essay, Sous le Sable [Under the Sand], (2001): Directed by: Francois Ozon; Distributed by: Winstar Cinema. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(1):313-317.

(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(1):313-317

Film Review Essay, Sous le Sable [Under the Sand], (2001): Directed by: Francois Ozon; Distributed by: Winstar Cinema

Review by:
Rita V. Frankiel, Ph.D.

This film analysis was written in the summer of 2001, long before the catastrophic terrorist attacks on the USA on 11 September. Now, sadly, it becomes particularly timely because it deals with the devastating psychic processes that can be set in motion by loss. Some who suffer loss are, for example, forced to deny reality altogether. My essay on the film Under the Sand explores this and other forms of pathological mourning and grief, many of which we are now forced to confront nationally and internationally. Gabbard's (1997) encouragement of analysts to use film for the exploration of psychic reality takes on an added urgency at a time of thousands of suddenly dead bodies, and of body parts and bodies that cannot be found.

Under the Sand evokes the tormented emotional life of a woman whose husband has disappeared. As the film opens, a middle-aged couple go on holiday. They are a curiously silent and seemingly ill-matched couple; she, lean, active and cheery, takes most of the initiative; he is overweight and phlegmatic. She ignores his unresponsiveness. Is he depressed? Is he unhappy in the marriage? Is it both? They go to the beach. He says that he will go for a swim. She dozes in the sun. When she awakens he is gone. What has become of him?

Francois Ozon, the director of this powerful film is a master of ambiguity and restraint. There is not a wasted shot, not a lingering directorial self-indulgence. Dialogue is pared to the absolute minimum. Concentrating with unwavering attention and growing power on emotions expressed in the face and body of the actress Charlotte Rampling, we witness insistent denial that a death has occurred in the face of accumulating evidence that the husband has probably drowned.

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