Movies You Might Have Missed: Disorder

TitleDisorder (Maryland)
Release Date: 2015
Rating: N/A
Length: 98 minutes
Director: Alice Winocour
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy
Language: French
Country: France

Alice Winocour manages to create a film that is disorienting and confusing just enough that one begins to feel the uncertainty that plagues Matthias Schoenaerts’ character Vincent throughout the film. We begin with soldiers and quickly learn that Vincent is suffering from some minor injuries after returning from fighting in the Middle East or maybe Afghanistan. Beyond this, however, Vincent is desperately trying to hide the serious psychological effects of his PTSD so that he can be sent back on another tour. Why would he want to go back to a place that has traumatized him so?

He longs to return to the action, but is desperately afraid of being invalided out of the army. He self-medicates both by  illicitly buying painkillers and by believing a return to the simple, dangerous life of front-line combat will serve as a panacea for his problems. In the meantime, his army buddy Denis gets him and other soldiers on leave temporary security jobs for wealthy people. In particular, about 10 or 12 of them get a gig doing security at a high-class party at a walled and gated estate named Maryland (hence the original title). The party is being put on by a wealthy, mysterious Lebanese man named Whalid who has some sort of connection to the French government.

At the party, Vincent evinces disdain for the political class he seems to think of as soft and arrogant as well as a fair bit of loyalty to his employer despite the short contract. Vincent would perhaps be a happier man as a mercenary. Vincent also briefly encounters Whalid’s wife Jessie and his son Ali during the course of the evening. Hints from events and conversations at the party seem to lead to Whalid needing to leave immediately for Switzerland and Denis tells Vincent that Whalid has asked Denis for one of the men to stay on as bodyguard and security for his wife and son. Vincent has been given the job at Denis’ suggestion.

Vincent is reluctant; he retains enough clarity to worry about the effects of his PTSD. But when he tries to express this to Denis, his friend points out he needs the money and Vincent won’t come right out and explain because he doesn’t want to risk his army career if it would get out. It doesn’t take long for him to start to become borderline obsessed with Jessie, but it all starts to get mixed up with his desire to be loyal to his employer.

Events pick up, the excitement builds in brief, explosive bursts, but underneath it all Winocour ratchets the tension up higher and higher. The sense of disorientation builds as the outside world fades in importance and the sense of isolation builds. At the same time, the question starts to arise, is what we’re being shown really happening? Or is it maybe largely in Vincent’s imagination? Is he concocting the kind of simple us versus them, me against the world scenarios that he craves for their simplicity?

The climax of the film is intense, violent, and very bloody. But at the very end, the question remains and looms larger than ever. What was real, and what was just in Vincent’s head? What truly happened? Is Vincent a hero?

Before you go, I should also take note of the soundtrack by Gesaffelstein. It’s not obtrusive, but it really adds to the vague current of unease the movie contains throughout. (Listen to one of the tracks here.) The story and plot isn’t really as important here as the study of the character Vincent and the intent to leave the viewer with emotions rather than answers to questions. In this regard, it’s a brilliant success.

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