L'enfer (Hell) Danis Tanovic

In the Ancient Greek play Medea, a woman takes revenge on the husband who betrays her by slaying their children. L'Enfer, Danis Tanovic's second feature (after the award-winning and overrated No Man's Land), loosely borrows from Euripides's tragedy as well as from Dante's Inferno. Overlapping stories follow the loves and tragedies of three sisters, played by some of France's biggest names, including Emmanuelle Béart. One sister banishes an unfaithful husband. Another has an affair with her university professor, a much older married man. The third is lonely and seeks companionship as she takes care of her mother, a mute harridan played by Carole Bouquet. A mysterious, young bookseller pursues the lonely daughter and unlocks the key to her family's tragedy. Her father was imprisoned many years ago, sent away by her mother. The sisters' stories are vastly different yet a common thread of betrayal runs throughout them. Only as the film progresses do the strands come together and we learn that they are related, united by their father's tragedy. Screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz penned the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski and it's easy to see a similar precise tempo applied to L'Enfer. And the performances by the sisters and Bouquet are strong. The men, however, are vague, one-dimensional characters who seem to be driven only by lust. The father is supposed to cast a shadow over his daughters' adult lives, but we never understand his purpose in the story. Is he the culprit or victim? The Bouquet character is enigmatic yet bitter, but we never learn why she condemned her husband to prison so many years ago. Though well done in many places, L'Enfer overall fails to convince. (A.S.A.P./Bitters Ends)