Private Property (Nue Propriété)
There is a dedication at
the beginning of Private Property which reads "A nos limites," which translated simply means, "To
Then the film goes and
shows us a family which has lost all of theirs.
Pascale (Isabelle Huppert)
is an aging divorcee who lives in a rambling home in the Belgian countryside
with her grown twin sons Thierry and François (Jérémie and Yannick Renier -- who are brothers in real
life, but not twins).
Though the boys are in
their twenties they have no aspirations to leave. Why should they,
they feel, with their mother to cook and clean for them? Why get a job
when they can hang around the house, play video games and table tennis,
watch TV, wrestle, work on the motorbike, fool around with a local girl and
shoot rats at the local pond?
The three of them live in
an oddly open manner. Pascale will shower or go to the bathroom in
front of her children. The sons bathe together. The boys,
particularly Thierry, who blames his mother for the parents divorce, snap at
her more like a husband than a child. Thierry can be cruel, calling
her a whore but always insisting he is just kidding.
While these things seem
like them may be disturbing, there doesn't seem to be anything sexual or
any of these actions. They have just hit a point where all walls, even
the necessary ones, have been torn down. It even seems that Pascale
would like to return some propriety to the goings-on in the house, but she
doesn't know how to return things to the way they were.
This highly toxic living
condition gets even more polluted when Pascale starts dating a man and
dreaming of escaping this life to open a bed & breakfast with him.
Thierry is openly contemptuous towards the man -- particularly when he finds
that his mother is considering selling their home to make her dream a
Not too much really happens
in Private Property. It has a slow, deliberate pace like the
lives that the characters lead. However insult piles upon insult, indignity upon
indignity, until finally the family reaches a tragic tipping point.
Huppert proves, once again,
that she is the best actress in France. She can say more with silence
or a tragically vacant stare than many actors could with a page of dialogue.
The Renier brothers also do
a fine job -- particularly Yannick as the son caught in the middle between
his brother and mother, trying to keep the peace with everyone when there is
none to be brokered. Jérémie's character of Thierry is more
one-dimensional with his anger and selfishness, but still well played.
The movie ends on a rather
ambiguous note. After the emotional explosion has finally happened the
camera (and by extension the audience) literally picks up and leaves,
backing out of the house, pulling down the driveway and driving away before
we find out what exactly the outcome is.
open-endedness works for the story however, in fact makes a certain elegant
sense. It is like the writer/director Lafosse is finally restoring the
privacy that these people lost so long ago.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: September 16, 2007.