The Mark of an Angel Safy Nebbou

The Mark of an Angel Safy Nebbou
Screening at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, Mark of an Angel received little to no buzz, which is unfortunate, as it was one of the better films, playing as a restrained Hitchcock-ian thriller with a firm understanding of genre conventions and how to manipulate them while tossing in some non-invasive feminist undertones. It posits mystery around peculiar and unexplained human behaviour, with the recently divorced Elsa Valentin (Catherine Frot) developing a bizarre fixation on a young girl (Heloise Cunin) that she sees at a birthday party her son Thomas (Arthur Vaughan-Whitehead) attends. She eventually manipulates her son into the social proximity of the girl while befriending her mother Claire (Sandrine Bonnaire). To expand beyond that would spoil a great deal of the film, which, unfortunately, the reverse cover of the DVD does. Thankfully, what can't be given away is the distinctive understanding and usage of not only tone but sound and colour to alter audience opinion of these characters, given our likely response to the situation. This isn't a film where there is a big, jaw-dropping twist, rather our senses are manipulated and confused throughout, despite the fact that the film has minimal stylizations and camera movement. It's quite an impressive and underplayed feat, as are the performances by both leading ladies, who mask and reveal emotions in occasionally unorthodox manners that avoid expected genre and social trappings, which is where the feminism comes in. One might expect these women to seek the assistance and shelter of men, or respond emotionally to the situation, unable to digest it in a reasonable or pragmatic manner, but they consistently refute these expectations without obnoxiously winking at the camera. Anyone that enjoys a good French, character-based mystery should definitely check this one out. Aside from a trailer, no supplements are included with the DVD. (E1)