Having liked the last film of Francois Ozon (Dans la maison‘) as well as some of his previous work I jumped on the opportunity of seeing one of his earlier works screened at the local cinematheque. ’5×2′ is based on an interesting idea – telling the story of a relationship in five episodes backwards, from its breaking in divorce to the moment of the ignition, although the idea was not completely new by 2004 when the film was made, as Christopher Nolan‘s Memento was made in 2000 and Gaspar Noe‘s Irreversible in 2002. Although Noe’s film was also telling the story of a relationship, both predecessors were much more violent films. I almost have the feeling that Francois Ozon tried to experiment the same technique of story telling and picked on purpose a quite banal relationship story, broke it into episodes and told it a la reverse, experimenting with the output. Can a director tell a nicer and softer story this way? Will it gain in interest? Will the perspective change because of the story telling technique?

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0354356/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0354356/

 

The answer to the last question is ‘somehow, yes’. The story of the eventually failed relation between Marion (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stephane Freiss) has nothing extraordinary by itself, it’s a rather banal encounter of mid-class professionals, they fall for each other, they marry, they have a child, betrayals and occasional sex games throw some ambiguity in their lives, the parents may or may not influence the couple, and eventually the marriage does not hold, as half of the marriages facing similar crisis do not hold, while the other half do.  The technique of telling the story changes the pace – by making us anticipate what happened BEFORE and not AFTER, after we realize the trick – and the eventual feeling – by telling us the first encounter last the ultimate impression is positive, despite the fact that as viewers we know that in the real logic of time the story does not end well. The director however decided here to reverse time and by doing this, the happy beginning turned into some kind of a happy end.

 

(video source ZahranicniTrailery)

 

Good acting supports the director’s intention. Both lead actors are credible, they play in a sincere and direct manner, and I suspect that if I had seen the variant where time runs normally (actually Ozon made such a variant) I would have been slightly disappointed. ’5×2′ is an apparently simple exercise in story-telling which is smarter than it first seems.