Trouble Every Day (France, 2001)
We’re back in Paris for the second day running, and possibly looking at vampires again. I’ve seen Trouble Every Day described as a vampire film, and this may be as good a label as any. There’s certainly some blood drinking going on, and maybe a bit of cannibalism as well. Even so, I’m not sure that “vampire” is quite the right word to describe this film’s rather more human predators. Nothing in this film lends itself to easy categorisation, and that’s one of the things that made me like it so much.
When we first encounter Léo, a doctor, he is cleaning up after Coré, a young woman who has done something unfortunate and violent to a truck driver. Léo seems well versed in disposing of bodies and helping Coré wipe dried blood from her face. We learn that Léo keeps Coré prisoner in his house, but no matter what he does, she continues to escape and devour people. Coré seems to be linked to Léo’s work, whatever that may be, but is she a patient, experimental subject or something else?
Meanwhile, Shane and June, a couple of American newlyweds, are on honeymoon in Paris. Shane is haunted by visions of the blood-splattered form of his new bride and seems to be fighting the urge to turn them into reality. It becomes apparent that Shane has ulterior motives in coming to Paris as he neglects his new bride and starts tracking down former colleagues in medical research, looking for help with his increasingly violent and carnivorous impulses.
It takes almost half the film’s running time before these storylines begin to converge, and when they finally do make contact, it is a brief and bloody intersection. This journey is slow, mysterious and dreamy, light on dialogue, with little exposition and fewer concrete answers. Whether you like explanations and neat resolutions will be the biggest factor in deciding whether this the film for you. If you are happy to fill in gaps or at least to accept that you won’t get all the answers you may think you want, Trouble Every Day will tantalise and haunt you. This is a film where much is going on under the surface, a lot of which stubbornly remains just out of sight.
Trouble Every Day has something of the atmosphere of an early Cronenberg film, filled with clinical environments and hints of medical experiments gone wrong, but is a much more sensual affair. This is a film about the hunger for human flesh, both metaphorical and literal, and a few scenes blur this line. We are used to seeing the parallels between sex and the seductive predations of the vampire, but they are rarely so entwined as they are here. Even the non-violent sex scenes have a predatory air to them, and are erotic in a very blunt, physical manner.
There was some controversy around the violent sexuality of Trouble Every Day when it was first released. It came just ahead of the sudden, bloody rush of extreme horror films that flowed out of France in the 2000s, but it is certainly brutal and visceral enough to be counted amongst them. The gory violence would be unsettling enough without the sexual aspects, and when we see oral sex turning into a more literal form of eating someone out, it is hard not to react viscerally. It may not reach the extremes of films like Martyrs or Irreversible, but Trouble Every Day certainly has no respect for boundaries.
With its mix of bloody horror and art-house aspirations, Trouble Every Day is an almost textbook example of a film that is not for everyone. If you have the temperament to enjoy a film that not only refuses to hold your hand but may well try eating it, you will likely find yourself entranced. Just expect to wince, squirm and scratch your head in equal measure.