The Sentinel (La Sentinelle)

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


French director Amaud Desplechin's intriguing conspiracy drama, The Sentinel, is an intensely psychological and suspenseful exploration of Cold War politics. When Mathias Barillet, the son of a German border guard, moves to France to study forensics. he finds himself a pawn in a game of espionage where the rules are as mysterious as the stakes. After a frightening encounter with a double agent on the train, Mathias discovers a strange parcel. He unwraps layers of gauze to find the shrunken head of a middle-aged man. With eerie, yet fascinating, meticulousness (as characteristic of Desplechin's style as of Mathias's character), he skillfully dissects the head.

Each tooth, hair follicle and bone draws him further into the web of questions surrounding the man's death. Mathias's obsession to understand the brain which once informed this nameless skull becomes a metaphor for his need to fathom the Cold War itself.

Outside of his lab, Mathias's relationships are edgy and uncomfortable. His roommate, a French diplomat, transforms his living quarters into a fortress. and it seems as if the cloak and dagger game these young men play about the borders in their home is symbolic of the cerebral war that shaped their youth. The Sentinel is a complex and fascinating first feature from a filmmaker worth watching.

Friday Jan 22 9:00 pm
Prospector Square Theatre

Tuesday Jan 26 4:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Sunday Jan 31 10:30 am
Prospector Square Theatre

— Catherine Schulman

Screening Details

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