Now on DVD: The Woman in the Fifth (2011), Eerie Psychothriller
How to describe The Woman in the Fifth…that is the question. For some it is a tantalizing puzzle, for others an intriguing intellectual exercise, and others call it a challenging art film. It is the kind of movie intelligent moviegoers either love or hate, and everyone asks, “What’s the point?” For me, it’s The Sixth Sense meets The Usual Suspects meets Casper (the Friendly Ghost), except that all three of those films allowed the audience an occasional laugh and relatable characters. The Woman in the Fifth is a somber French film that seems to take the term “French film” far too seriously. Why is it that an Australian film is a film that’s made in Australia, be it Crocodile Dundee or Picnic at Hanging Rock…but a French film…well, that’s a responsibility?
Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) leaves America and move to Paris in an attempt to reunite with his wife and six-year-old daughter. The daughter seems okay with the idea, but the wife intimates that something very bad went down in their past and calls the police to enforce an exclusion order. Throughout the film, our minds wander back to whatever it was that happened between them, because without knowing we don’t have context for much of what happens in Paris. Is Tom a depressed guy who wants to reconcile with his family or is he insane? Are the events and characters real or a product of his imagination? When he meets Margit Kaddar (Kristin Scott Thomas), is he meeting a new love or the personification of his art?
All questions aside, The Woman in the Fifth is a well-made, slow-moving film that is either filled with symbolism or a frustrating waste of time. There are people who absolutely loved it, and there are people who despised it. I know I didn’t love it, but I can’t say that I hated it. My best description of The Woman in the Fifth is “unrewarding.” I wasn’t entertained or amused, I wasn’t plunged into deep philosophical thought (you know…like the first time you saw Animal House), and I didn’t care what it meant or about the fate of its characters. So maybe I didn’t love it, and maybe I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t like it.
The Woman in the Fifth is a French-Polish co-production directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, which opened in U.S. theaters June 15, and is now available on cable VOD, DVD, iTunes, and Amazon instant video.