Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenwriters: Denis Villeneuve

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Remember Dennis Potter's magical "singing detective" series? Well, now we have this unusual tale of star-crossed love, death, and redemption—narrated by a talking fish. Quebeçois director Denis Villeneuve employs the same dreamy dislocations of time and place that he used to such fine effect in his luminous August 32nd on Earth, but this time around he scrambles the elements of romance, fashion, and car accidents to produce an entirely different resolution.

Maelström opens with a calculatedly tough assault on the audience: abortion, sibling rivalry, love betrayal, and fish butchery alternate in quick succession. Boutique manager Bibiane and an old Norwegian fishmonger collide with finality on a city street. His death propels Bibiane (played by Marie-Josée Croze) into a crisis, into the river, and eventually into the arms of a stranger. This is the stuff of which sagas have long been made: You cannot escape your destiny, you will lie down with your enemy, and the fish will speak to you. Placed in a contemporary setting, the old truths take new turns. Watch for the sympathetic stranger who, wise as a Greek chorus, advises the young lovers and pardons their sins.

Maelström has so much fun with its own artifice—from the nutty pop sound track to the improbably happy ending—that the viewer can hardly begrudge the director's decision to allow the fish with a taste for Grieg to have the last word.

— B Ruby Rich

Screening Details

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