I Stand Alone

Director: Gaspar Noe

Gaspar Noe’s I Stand Alone is one of the most powerful and shocking European films for some time. Unlike Michael Haneke’s recent Funny Games, with its self-conscious distancing techniques and high moral tone, Noe’s film offers no escape route as it plunges us into the troubled mind of his chief protagonist, a hate-filled butcher who rails against his sorry life by lashing out at anyone who gets in his way. Noe first introduced us to his butcher in the 1992 mini-feature Carne (Meat), and the character’s history as depicted there is quickly reviewed at the start of I Stand Alone. Emerging from a prison sentence for having wounded a man he thought had raped his autistic teenage daughter, the butcher (Philippe Nahon) had lost his business and even his flat. Abandoning his daughter in an orphanage, he moves from Paris to Lille with a pregnant barmaid. But his hopes for a new life turn to bitterness, and then violence, as he makes a horrendous attack on his girlfriend. Armed and dangerous, the butcher returns to Paris, but there is no improvement in his fortunes.
The film forces us to enter the paranoid mind of its nihilistic protagonist through an incessant stream of invective delivered in voice-over. Noe also employs the extremely effective device of sudden, fast zooms accompanied by the sound of gun shots, which has a jolting, disorientating effect. His film is deliberately shocking and confrontational. Yet it also contains moments of great tenderness and bizarre humour. The grubby realism of the settings, the terrible plight of the characters, and especially Nahon’s compelling performance, all combine to evoke a far more complex response than mere outrage.

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