7 Ans / 7 Years (2006, France)

7 Ans - Bruno Todeschini as Vincent and Cyril Troley as Jean

Director Jean-Pascal Hattu set out, one imagines, to create a movie full of longing and quirkiness. A movie of melancholic remembrances prompted by smells and touch and things imagined and things unsaid. It only half works.  

Vincent (Bruno Todeschini) is in jail for 7 years. Why? We don’t know. We do know that his wife, Maïté (Valérie Donzelli), intends to be there for the long haul. She dutifully visits him every week, lovingly washing and ironing his clothes and putting up with the sort of self-centred demands many prisoners place on their loved ones, believing that the universe revolves around them alone.

7 years. It’s a long time to be alone. Soon Maïté is having sex in a car with a stranger she met in the visitors’ queue. Jean. He claims he is visiting his brother. Later, after more sex, he reveals that he is really a prison officer, and that he knows Vincent. Awkward, n’est-ce pas? He’s skinny, watery, effete, doleful; one wonders what she could possibly see in him. Maïté continues to visit her husband and sleep with his keeper.

Jean gets a job overseeing the visits. Vincent, we realise, seems to know him well. Very well. They’re close. It transpires that Vincent has asked Jean to seduce Maïté, and to bring back recordings of their love-making, from which he gains vicarious pleasure and pain. In return, Vincent gets an easier path. Maybe. He gives Jean directorial advice as to how to get better sound out of his wife. They share notes. Hmmm. Maïté finds out. Complicated, surely. She nonetheless continues with the arrangement.

It’s not an easy film to like. None of the characters are particularly endearing; each is selfish in their own way. Maïté, the most sympathetically drawn, is intent on having her physical needs met, even by a man who locks up her husband. Vincent is manipulative, demanding, happy to pimp his wife. Jean is gormless; lacking horribly in both gorm and presence. Maybe he wants the unattainable Vincent more than the attainable Maïté.

All we see of the prison is the visits booth, an exercise yard, Vincent’s cell and a hospital bed (in which Vincent recuperates after attempting suicide). It’s not edifying. It’s not much about prison. But it shows you that you don’t need other prisoners to make a depressing prison movie.

7 Ans #2 - Valérie Donzelli as Maïté and Bruno Todeschini as Vincent 7 Ans #3 - Cyril Troley as Jean and Bruno Todeschini as Vincent 7 Ans #4 - Maïté

Posted on April 13th, 2010 at 9:38 pm. Updated on April 13th, 2010 at 9:39 pm.

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