Originally from NUFEC.com.
Stranger by the Lake
left me stranded. While I had some connection to film, especially with
supporting character Henri, I couldn’t quite grasp it. It focuses on a
lake in rural France that gay men use for “cruising”, a ritual of
searching for casual sex partners. Stranger by the Lake
mainly follows Frank, who begins a dominantly sexual relationship with a
rugged man named Michel. They never meet outside of the cruising lake
and its nearby woods; in fact, the film never leaves this setting.
Secondary to Frank’s sexual relationship with Michel is his friendship
with the far more interesting Henri, who goes to the lake not for sex
but for companionship. Henri’s loneliness and warmth are fascinating to
observe in this setting. There’s also a murder sub-plot, which felt
somewhat out of place, although I imagine it may grow on me with time.
A general sense of confusion fills me when I think about Stranger by the Lake.
What is this movie about and why are these scenes tied together? I’m
still not quite sure, but reading an interview with writer/director
Alain Guiraudie helped. He said that he “[created] sequences that
combined the emotions of being in love with the obscenity of sex,
without pitting the nobility of feelings on the one hand, against the
trivial function of sex organs on the other." When reflecting on this, I
can see the film’s strength in conveying the odd yet intense
combination of passion and dispassion present in the cruising ritual,
but I needed Guiraudie to help me get there.
Henri’s character helped me stay with the film, as it exposed the
loneliness behind Frank’s actions. However mostly, I’m befuddled by the
tedium of the film. Ultimately, I recognize that there’s a depth to Stranger by the Lake that I’m blind to. I can hear it in Guiraudie’s words, and the exciting reactions from some critics, but it escapes me. If the subject matter sounds interesting to you, go for it. I hope you won't be left astray as I was.