'4.48': Montreal Review

4.48 Still - H 2014
Courtesy of The World Film Festival Montreal

4.48 Still - H 2014

A modest but convincing portrait of obsession

An actress gets a little too into her first big role

An aspiring actress finds the role of a lifetime in Jacky Katu's 4.48, identifying so completely with the woman that she makes all the old cliches about the Method seem tame. Inspired by 4.48 Psychosis, the final play by the late British playwright Sarah Kane, the film wallows in its themes of despair and neediness without dragging viewers into its protagonist's suffering. It should draw some respectful notice at fests and will be a curiosity for theater buffs familiar with Kane's work.

Aurelie Hougenade plays Anais, a seemingly happy young woman whose underlying fragility shows up as soon as she is cast in a one-woman production of the play. Thinking the call is a joke, she hurls a profane insult at the caller (the play's director, Jean-Marie Galey) and hangs up.

But she becomes unstoppable once she realizes her mistake, refusing to accept that the role has been recast. The director gives her a second chance, seeing raw materials within her he can't afford to pass up. In parallel, we watch short pieces of their experiment-heavy rehearsals (read the lines like an animal — no, not a monkey; that's too predictable) cut between her home life with adoring, playful boyfriend Pierre (Manuel Lambinet).

Katu retains his observational distance as Anais grows more intense about the job, letting her relationship implode and (in response to themes in Kane's work) taking up with a lesbian she immediately decides to marry. Hougenade offers a convincing tunnel vision, shutting out stimuli that don't enhance her identification with the playwright, but her increasingly unhinged strategies seem to work. She begins to bring Kane's monologues to life in rehearsal, revealing what about this fragmented, cryptic play would draw her (and Katu) to it in the first place. When her progress stalls, she provokes extremes in her personal life.

The indifferently photographed but well-paced film subscribes to familiar notions about the price art extracts from the passionate, ending in probably the only way it possibly could. Here's hoping Hougenade, in her first leading role, didn't sacrifice as much of her soul as Anais does.

Production company: Les Illuminations
Cast: Aurelie Hougenade, Jean-Marie Galey, Yinda Rouya, Marie Menges, Manuel Lambinet, Matt Gras
Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Jacky Katu
Directors of photography: Thomas Liegeard, Simon Picazos
Editor: Victor Toussaint

No rating, 84 minutes