Published Mar 30, 2013Told through a fractured narrative that jumps from past to present, Franck Guérin's disturbingly candid ode to natural order, One O One starts years after the character-shaping emotional climax of Abbas (Yann Peira), a man living alone in Taipei, searching for a French girl from his past.
After it's established that an unnamed disease is ravaging through the populous, causing people to bleed from the eyes and behave savagely before succumbing to death, Abbas's transient nature in Taipei, listlessly wandering from place-to-place is juxtaposed a story seven years prior where he lived with his wife Clara (Aleksandra Yermak) in an isolated mountain village.
The disease presents early on in this story as more of a peripheral element in the lives of two recluses living through a sexless, passion-free marriage. Abbas spends most of his days hunting—something that allows Guérin to assert the expansive, foreboding nature of the world with cinematography and landscapes that diminish our protagonist to the mere incidental speck—while Clara lives a life of imposed introspection, questioning her sexuality and identity.
This thematic trajectory of sexualized gender identity compounds when the couple find Sveta (Camille Guérin), a young girl living in a cave with her mute, presumably sick, mother Leva (Cassandre Manet), and bring them home. Though Leva never demonstrates any of the symptoms associated with the widespread epidemic, her peculiar nature and animalistic impulses lead to a coital union between her and Abbas. Clara, pleased that her husband is again interested in using her as a depository, allows it to happen and engages them all in a happy threesome lifestyle.
As One O One plays out, the idea of man as mere vessel for global order and construction, acting as a pollinator, whether spreading babies or viral infection, becomes more clear. Guérin uses very little dialogue or conventional tactics to project his subtext, but the trajectory, wherein Abbas uses and disposes of the many women that ground the emotional component of the story—in addition to repeat images of the phallic Taipei 101 tower—suggest that male dominance is akin to disease.
The oblique, fantastical approach to telling a story like this helps open interpretation for viewers less apt to accept this perspective on life. It also gives a low key Sci-Fi dimension to a film that consistently refuses to succumb to the rules of the medium or any given genre.
While flawed by sheer virtue of never quite packing the punch it intends to, One O One is a fascinating work that challenges that status quo both in theme and in presentation, paralleling concept with format, which is something few directors are brave enough to try. (Alter Ego Films)