The Page Turner [subtitled]

The Page Turner

If you recall the mainstream American movie The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, consider The Page Turner to be a vastly more sophisticated, subtle, slow, thoughtful foreign (French) movie of that type.

Early in the film, a young girl is shown blowing an important piano exam. She clearly believes that the fault lies with the fact that one of the judges thoughtlessly distracted her during her performance.

Unfortunately for the judge, the girl turns out to be nothing short of a deranged vengeful psychopath who never forgets this minor, if not imaginary, slight. When we meet her next, it is quite a few years later (by the way, she is now a complete and utter babe, albeit of the ice princess variety), and she manages to insinuate herself into the home of the judge, her husband, and their young son. (Actually we can infer from something that is said that she already delivered at least one vengeful blow in the intervening years.)

From this point, it’s solid Hitchcock. There’s really no suspense to speak of as to whether she’s going to do something severe to the woman to exact her revenge. The suspense concerns when she’s going to do it and how she’s going to do it. And that builds quite effectively. (Turns out she likes diabolically slow-developing assaults as much as sudden ones, multiple blows as much as one big one, and serious mind-fucks as much as physical abuse.)

This is a good one if you like the kind of movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat with subtle, long-lasting suspense.

For the most part, I thought this film did quite well in the plausibility area, once you buy the basic premise that she’s as inhumanly obsessive and cold-blooded as she is.

It did occur to me that it’s far-fetched she could have planned all this out, since so much that happens is dependent on the actions of others that she couldn’t possibly have anticipated, at least not in full. Even the way she became a member of their household in the first place seemingly came about largely by chance. But on reflection, I think maybe a better way to look at it is that we aren’t watching some fully developed in advance scheme of hers play out. More likely, she intentionally placed herself on the periphery of this woman’s life, and from there she just played it by ear, taking what opportunities happened to arise, and adjusting as she went along.

You can also make a case that it’s none too realistic that this person floating through the movie looking inscrutable, rarely with any expression beyond a barely perceptible evil grin, and not opening up and communicating with anyone in any kind of an emotionally significant way, doesn’t arouse more suspicion from more people. (And that’s even assuming they can’t hear the ominous soundtrack.) Eventually some people do start to wonder about her, but you’d think they’d pick up much faster on the fact that she’s up to no good.

I won’t take away too many points based on that though, as I think at least a partial defense is available. There may be some social commentary at work here. She is in a sort of servant’s role in their household, and that perhaps is why as much as they interact with her, she still has a certain invisibility or insignificance to them. So it may be that they just wouldn’t be attentive enough to someone in her role to think to analyze the nuances of her behavior for red flags.

I will say, though, that there’s one thing in the movie that is completely, totally, absolutely implausible. The son looks to be about twelve or thirteen when she’s living under their roof, and there’s no indication that he spends every waking moment obsessing over how to get into her pants, even after they swim together with her in a microscopic bikini.

Well, I’m sure his mind’s on school and piano playing and whatever. Uh huh.

I don’t know that a movie of this genre can ever be anything earth-shatteringly important. About all you can ask of it is a certain creepy, intriguing entertainment. So I’ll just conclude by saying it’s very good for what it is.

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