Bitten / La Morsure (2023) Film Review from the 76th Annual Locarno Film Festival, a movie written and directed by Romain de Saint-Blanquat and starring Léonie Dahan-Lamort, Lilith Grasmug, Fred Blin, Maxime Rohart and Cyril Metzger.
Bitten is a new French drama/horror movie written and directed by Romain de Saint-Blanquat who knows how to make an effective and suspenseful picture. This new movie is expertly paced with a story line that will captivate the audience for the entirety of the film. The movie revolves around two female friends from a Catholic high school in the late 1960’s and is set during Mardi Gras. Expect songs from the time period to help carry Bitten which is an exercise in unpredictability as it explores its two principal characters in juxtaposition to the people they meet on an eventful night. Though the movie leads to an ambiguous conclusion, the journey to get there is nonetheless full of eerie terror which will keep audiences guessing throughout.
Léonie Dahan-Lamort and Lilith Grasmug star in Bitten as the two Catholic schoolgirls determined to get to a costume party. Françoise (Dahan-Lamort) believes that she has but one night to live through visions she is having. These dreams help to give her the idea to explore all that life has to offer on her last night on the planet. Delphine (Grasmug) is going to the fancy school that they attend together but Delphine is revealed to be poor and only goes there because her dad is the janitor. Françoise and Delphine are besties and stick by each other through all that transpires. When Françoise is forced to break a window to escape an office at the school, both female characters flee the scene to get to the party that is happening a bit further down the road.
Enter a middle-aged man named Maurice (Fred Blin) who the young ladies enlist to take them to the party. When the girls get in his car, they feel a bit uncomfortable especially when Maurice reveals they are driving in a stolen vehicle. There is a bite mark that seemingly appears on his neck but that’s neither here nor there at this point in the picture. When it finally appears that Maurice is not an ax murderer, the plot settles down at the party as Delphine hooks up with Daniel (Cyril Metzger) and Françoise takes a liking to a weird young guy named Christophe (Maxime Rohart) who appears to be dressed as a vampire. Imagine the feeling that sinks in when Christophe claims that he actually is one.
Bitten creates a cinematic atmosphere that is very effective for the material at hand thanks to fine direction. While the costumes and cinematography are appropriate as well, the movie very efficiently flirts with different possibilities regarding the character of Françoise who is obviously suffering from some sort of depression regarding her existence which leads her to believe this will be her last night on earth. This movie will keep you guessing which way it is headed especially when the character of Maurice pops up again later in the picture.
Dahan-Lamort is truly special in the role. Adding a very appealing character to the mix in Delphine, Grasmug is also effective as the friend who finds comfort in Daniel’s company but yearns to be there by Françoise’s side at all times. Dahan-Lamort captures the complexity of her role to perfection. She longs to be free spiritually and sexually and finds in Christophe a kindred spirit.
It is not always clear what the path is that Bitten will take, but it is a terrifically made picture all around. The character development is quite strong with Dahan-Lamort fleshing out Françoise with terrific precision as she depends on a certain object to foreshadow her future. When there is a fire set at the end of the film, it opens up countless questions which are not easily answered regarding Françoise’s future. Rohart and Dahan-Lamort have some nice chemistry together as well while Fred Blin’s Maurice is certainly creepy at times whether he turns out to be up to no good or not.
This film is an exemplary example of how to make a superbly crafted horror movie. Although the events that happen at the end aren’t as horrifying as you may expect them to be, it’s that sense of dread that is laced throughout the scenes of the picture that make Bitten stand out from the rest. Bitten is nothing less than the type of horror movie that will keep one’s interest all the way through. The acting and direction are way above average and the movie begs the question what filmmaker Romain de Saint-Blanquat will do next. If this film is any proof, there will be great things to come for this director.
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