Dir: Serge Leroy
Star: Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Luc Bideau, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Michael Lonsdale
a.k.a. La Traque
Let’s begin with the IMDb synopsis. “A young tourist is sexually assaulted by two men in the countryside. After she manages to escape, a party of local hunters agree to track her in order to cover up the scandal.” I’ve seen enough of the genre of rape-revenge movies, such as I Spit On Your Grave, which this precedes by three years, to know where this goes. She fights back and picks off her attackers, one by one. After she picked up a gun – carelessly left behind by a member of the group – and gut-shoots one of them, my expectations appeared to be confirmed. I could not have been more wrong.
The signs were there early, if I’d looked for them. The woman, Helen Wells (Farmer), is initially the focus, arriving in a small rural town to check out a potential holiday rental. However, after she arrives there, the film switches to the hunting party, who are out in the woods on a quest for wild boar. We get to know the members of the group, such as Philippe Mansart (Bideau), who met Helen on the way to join them, and indeed, gave her a lift. Or the Danville brothers, Albert (Marielle) and Paul: two nasty pieces of work, who instigate and carry out the rape. There’s also David (Lonsdale, an actor you’ll recognize as villain Hugo Drax from Moonraker), who is prepared to go to any ends to protect the village and its inhabitants.
That’s where this differs drastically from my expectations. For it’s more about the attackers than the attacked, who for the bulk of the film is just a frightened rabbit, scurry through the countryside. Instead, this focuses (almost uniquely, as far as I know?) on the perpetrators, who are a wide and varied bunch, but eventually united by their loyalty – sometimes coerced and sometimes not – to each other. Initially, there are those who seem to be upstanding and seek to help Helen; Phillipe is one, and there’s another man, Chamond, who is also revolted by the assault. However, as things unfold, they are forced to make difficult decisions, and inevitably end up aligning themselves with their associates. As one says, “You can’t be part and not part of something. A group is a group.”
There’s probably a point in the proceedings at which you realize there’s really only one way this can possibly end – though I still found myself hoping I was wrong about it. Once you hit the line, the film becomes one of the most downbeat I’ve seen, such as the scene where it is almost casually admitted, that this is not the first time they’ve acted to cover up the death of an outsider. In contrast to the rape-revenge genre, which often borders on the fantastical, I’ve a horrible feeling what plays out here is not just plausible, it very likely has taken place, in various spots around the world.