Stranger by the Lake

M_sbtlStranger by the Lake (2013)

Having just finished watching this film, I’m a little confused.  From the beach with no tan lines that has more than one recreational use to hiding in the woods, I’m trying to figure out what I should have taken away from this film.

The story is about Franck who goes to a popular gay cruising beach just about every day.  He lusts after Michel and begins an affair with him.  Meanwhile, he becomes friends with another beach goer (although not a cruiser) named Henri.  When someone drowns in the lake, tension ensues because someone knows who the murderer is, but we have to wait to see if that person is ever exposed.

One of the first things I’ll mention (because you can’t not immediately notice it) is the nudity throughout the film.  It is treated very casually as one would expect being that they are on a nude, gay beach where it is understood by all that men cruise there.  It almost becomes natural as the movie progresses because almost everyone is naked.  However, this film becomes NC17 with some explicit scenes that one would expect to see in a porn film, not so much in a mystery…  Not really thinking they were necessary to the plot.

There is a theme buried within the film of love and sex vs friendship.  Franck hooks up with Michel and starts to want more very quickly.  He tells his friend Henri that he thinks he’s falling in love after one hookup.  Franck wants all the trappings of a relationship like going home together and staying the night.  Michel doesn’t seem to want any of that.  On the other hand, Franck’s friend Henri wants and gives just that – they often end their conversations with having a drink or dinner later.  Henri is even explicit about his feelings for Franck – he loves him as a friend.  Franck doesn’t get that from Michel.

To continue to discuss this in the detail that I want to I’ll have to include some spoilers so fair warning.  Franck sees Michel kill another man by drowning him in the lake.  However, he continues to pursue him like a moth to a flame.  This would seem to indicate that something is wrong with Franck.  I don’t think the average person is attracted to known killers.  Sure it’s a rush and they sure keep you on your toes, but probably not quite worth it for most.  Unfortunately, there’s not enough meat in the story (so to speak) to give us a better indication of why Franck is still pursuing Michel save for an insane attraction to him.  He pursues him, he protects him when questioned by the police, he seeks him out after making him angry, then seems to call out for him when he might just be in the most danger.  Perhaps I’ve missed something?

The sudden and abrupt ending is jolting and left me feeling like there was no ending at all.  I’m ok with endings that make you think or wonder long after the film has ended, but in this case we never know the whys of the story.

Perhaps that is my biggest complaint about the film – the “whys” are all but completely missing.  There’s not enough meaningful dialogue for us to figure out what’s wrong with these people.  I’m not against films where everyone has some DSM diagnosis because sometimes that what gives it drama or fun.  But in this case I don’t have a clue what caused these people to behave as they did.

I watched a Q&A on YouTube with one of the actors that gave a little more insight into some of the characters.  But I can’t credit the film with character development that comes from an after-film Q&A.

I’ll give the film points for the cinematography, the acting, the suspense, the eye-candy, and the meaningful dialogue with Henri and Franck.  Otherwise it’s not on the top of my list.

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Availability:
Netflix: Streaming and DVD
Amazon: Streaming and DVD
TLA: DVD

Link to the Q&A on YouTube

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