Despite a high-profile cast (Charlotte Rampling, Laurent Lucas, Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a notably talented director (Dominik Moll) Lemming, last year's opening picture at the Cannes Film Festival, offers a mix of questionable goodies.
The plot of Lemming is unexpectedly complicated: a young couple's daily routine is put on hold when a mysterious suicide takes place in their estate. At the same time a tiny Norwegian lemming is found dead in the sewage pipe running under the couple's kitchen.
Confusing, dark, and evoking comparisons with the work of David Lynch Lemming offers a string of subplots that many may find difficult to endure. The irrational behavior of the main protagonists also tends to put an additional weight on an already critically clogged-up story line. As a result it becomes nearly impossible to decide whether to embrace the awkward plot or dismiss it as ludicrous.
Those familiar with Dominik Moll's brilliant Harry, He's Here To Help (2000) will notice that the French director has not quite lost his affection for eccentric thrillers. During the first hour of Lemming it appears that what the audience will have to reconstruct is a mystery where all of the missing pieces are easily obtainable. But, Lemming veers off in a curious direction that not only surprises but seems to irritate as well. For two reasons:
Reason one: Laurent Lucas and Charlotte Rampling are so good in their roles that the absurd finale certainly makes me wish they would have teamed up for a different project.
Reason two: Lemming is neither a dark-thriller nor an arty-picture, it tiptoes somewhere in between. Which has caused all sorts of unfounded, ill-spirited, comparisons with the mentioned earlier David Lynch (Dominik Moll is too good to be tagged a copycat).
What does work in Lemming is the moody environment which Dominik Moll and Co. have mastered to perfection. In fact, the film's dark and gritty aura is the only thing that drives one's desire to endure its mystery. Unlike Harry, He's Here To Help however where the main protagonists were involved in a somewhat logical string of events in Lemming the story remains disappointingly flat.
To make matters even worse Lemming spoils the Hitchcockian-paranoia creeping in during the second part of the film by focusing on protracted and at times laughable horror scenes where hundreds of lemmings come to play. One was most certainly enough!!
In 2005 Lemming was nominated for Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. During the same year the film was also nominated for the Audience Award (Best Actress-Charlotte Rampling) at the European Film Awards. In 2006 the film was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Award (Charlotte Rampling) during the Cesar Awards.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Lemming does not look so shabby at all. Colors are strong, contrast is at notably good quality, and there is no damage that I could spot on this print. Unfortunately like the rest of Strand Releasing's films this one appears to be an unconverted PAL-NTSC port and it certainly shows. In fact there is an unusually heavy "ghosting" present which has me upset yet again as I truly like the films that the R1 company brings to the market. I suppose if you are still using a standard tube then perhaps you could give this DVD a try but I must warn you that on a progressive set this film will be a mess!
How Does the DVD Sound?
More trouble: despite of the decent French 2.0 track Strand have chosen to include "forced" English (rather large) subtitles that are indeed not player generated, they are burnt-in. Lemming does have a handful of notable scenes where a more advanced audio mix would have served the film better but all we get here is a basic sound option.
Aside from the original French theatrical trailer and a gallery of other Strand trailers there is nothing else to be found here.
As I already mentioned elsewhere Lemming is one of three films (the other two being Amos Gitai's Free Zone and Lars Von Trier's Manderlay) screened at the "in-competition" section of the Cannes Film Festival last year that failed to impress me. Despite of the stellar performances by Charlotte Rampling and Laurent Lucas (who I always enjoy) this film lacks a deserving script that could have used the talent of the great cast.