Don't watch after lunch

#SGWatch4U is our weekly screen review column where we tackle anything from film to TV/Netflix.

Ever wondered what it'd be like to have a twin? In French director Francois Ozon’s latest thriller, protagonist Chloe (Marine Vacth) does so to disastrous consequences. L’Amant Double (or Double Lover) toys with the twin fetish porn genre in an audacious exploration of female desire that will give Anastasia Steele a run for her money.   

When Chloe finds out her lover, the charming and soothing psychoanalyst, Paul Meyer (Jeremie Renier), has a twin brother with the exact same occupation, she becomes obsessed with keeping both close in her life. But honey, you can’t have your cake and eat it—especially when that cake is a pair of ravishing Frenchmen with a shared, dangerous secret.

Ozon’s film seems designed to shock; within the first 10 minutes, audiences are greeted by a friendly close-up of a pulsing pink vulva, which eventually match-cuts to an eye. Whether it’s sheer cinematic genius or just tongue-in-cheek humor is up for debate. It took us a good minute to realize what we’d just witnessed; and that was only after turning to the one other person in the audience—a young man who’d been gazing, mesmerized, at the screen, before quipping in response, “Wow, intense huh.”

Indeed. For a first-timer to Ozon’s work, L’Amant Double can be extremely terrifying. The sex scenes in the film are just as visceral as those of gore; more even, given the French director’s reputation for erotic drama films and depicting sexuality at its rawest. Everything is portrayed at an extreme—large, empty tableaus where pauses are pregnant and silences especially chilling, contrasted against deeply violent sex and darkness. But feeling discomfort is integral to the L’Amant Double experience.

Jeremie Renier and Marine Vacth

In her second collaboration with Ozon (the first being his 2013 erotic drama Young & Beautiful) Vacth is riveting in her performance as the haunted Chloe. Mental health and the inability to navigate dualities of fact/fiction are key themes in the film, and Vacth fleshes out both well. By day, she blends in peacefully with the art as a gallery sitter in a museum; but nightfall brings hallucinations and nightmares that contribute both to our horror and her slow descent into madness.

If you find the film’s pacing quick from the beginning, brace yourself for a highly unnerving final act. Plot twists abound, L’Amant Double takes what was initially “just” an erotic thriller and thrusts it into the body horror genre with enough ferocity to send your mind and stomach reeling. If by the end you aren’t fighting the urge to clasp both hands over your ears and/or run to the toilet to upchuck, kudos.

Tying the whole film together is a fantastic score by Philippe Rombi, whose ominous dissonances reach out like tentacles and writhe beneath your skin. In exploring the human body, unorthodox fetishes, and a very French outlook on desire, L’Amant Double is occasionally absurd; but consistently, and quietly, underscored by enough dread to keep you on edge even till the end.

L’Amant Double will screen at The Projector from Mar 22.