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SEE THE SEA (REGARDE LA MER) (director/writer: Francois Ozon; cinematographer: Yorick Le Saux; editor: Jeanne Moutard; music: Eric Neveux; cast: Marina De Van (Tatiana), Sasha Hails (Sasha), Paul Raoux (Sasha’s Husband), Samantha (Sioffra, The Baby); Runtime: 52; MPAA Rating: Not Rated; producers: Olivier Delbosc/Marc Missonnier; Zeitgeist Films; 1997-France)
“Ozon’s minimalist work is an edgy thriller that keeps one glued to the screen in anticipation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

“See the Sea” is a gripping 52-minute feature-length psychological drama by promising French filmmaker Francois Ozon. It reminds me of the controlled way Hitchcock spins a mystery story. It’s set at the Ile d’Yeu, a French beach community, where a young English bourgeois housewife Sasha (Hails) is located in the isolated part of the beach. Sasha stays in a comfortable beach house alone with her 10-month-old daughter Sioffra, while her husband is away on business in Paris.

Into the serene but dull setting enters a scruffy young woman, Tatiana (Marina de Van), with a backpack. She knocks on Sasha’s door and asks to pitch her tent in her big yard because the camp for hikers is full. Sasha is at first taken aback by the girl’s unfriendly posture, but soon relents as she’s reminded of her youthful days before marriage and her own adventures traveling.

Tatiana mentions she has a restless nature and can’t stay in one spot for more than 3 or 4 days. At dinner she licks her plate clean like an animal; when using the bathroom she doesn’t flush her bowel movement; and, the baby always cries in her presence. Sasha notices all these ominous signs, plus later she sneaks a look at her diary with drawings of violent pictures, but chooses to ignore all this and continue this uneasy relationship. She even leaves the baby with her to watch as she takes her bike into town to relax for a while and get away from her constant motherhood chores.

At the beach, Tatiana leaves the family because she’s bored. When Sasha spots some gays doing it in the woods, she’s aroused and has one of the fellows go down on her. The tension builds when Tatiana asks Sasha in a crass way about her childbirth and grills her about why she chose not to take pain killing drugs. Ozon does such a good job of building up the tension and letting us feel how creepy things have become. We can only wonder what’s in store for this vulnerable woman. Is it something sexual or something of a more macabre and evil nature? The suspense picks up further when hubby calls and says he’ll be home tomorrow, and she doesn’t even mention her strange visitor.

Ozon’s minimalist work is an edgy thriller that keeps one glued to the screen in anticipation. It’s a stark and brilliantly effective artistic work that is unsettling in its observations and in its prickly undercurrents of psychological unrest it slyly introduces.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”