Maelstrom (2000), directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a French film that explores the concept of karma and the good and bad luck that results from one’s actions. The plot of the film follows Bibiane, played by Marie-Josée Croze, a woman who has lived in the shadow of her mother’s legend all her life. After an inopportune abortion, she falls into a state of depression that proceeds to unfold a series of unfortunate events.
[SPOLERS ALERT] The film itself is quite a journey thematically, stylistically, and narratively. Not only is the film narrated by a talking fish that is being hacked apart as it speaks; but Bibiane’s story becomes so deeply complicated that it’s almost comical. First we have the abortion, which sparks a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol, and meaningless sex as a coping mechanism. Then, whilst driving drunk and high, she kills a man; then falls in love with that man’s son, which leads to an intense farce of confessions, realizations, and mixed emotions.
The film takes on an experimental style of storytelling, complimented by the complex narrative structure. However, I found that the interesting use of narration (from the talking fish) and folklore, took away from the overall film, and gave me the impression that the film was trying to be too many things at once. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion when everything came full circle. The plot effectively tied up all of the very loose ends that were created throughout the story, which is always satisfying in films with such broad narrative subplots.