The famous author Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos already said it: “Perish of need and misery those who, having dissipated the inheritance of their parents or not knowing how to shake off their laziness, still want to maintain their splendor, surrounded on all sides by misery”. Four years after his hypnotic ‘The Last Lesson’, in which he seemed to be inspired by ‘The Town of the Damned’, Sébastien Marnier now returns with a story with clear Hitchcockian touches, ‘The Origin of Evil’.
‘The origin of evil’ starts from a misleading premise. Stéphane is a middle-aged woman, an orphan, who, after visiting her partner in jail, receives the announcement that the lady to whom she rents her room is going to kick her out. This confronts her with an uncomfortable reality, asking her biological father for help. The surprise of the woman, who works precariously as an operator in an anchovy canning factory, will be to discover that her father turns out to be a hotel magnate.
The woman thus enters a world that looks at her in a hostile way and in which, with the exception of the patriarch, all the members of the family are also female. One cannot go further, since Marnier, who also signs the script, creates a convoluted plot that is difficult to describe if you do not want to fall into the spoiler. Just to mention that the protagonist, a formidable Laure Calamyamong a web of appearances, intrigues and deceptions in which nothing is what it seems.
Marnier takes advantage of clichés to unmask a network of ambitions, betrayals and selfishness, in which the orphan occupies an unexpected place. The filmmaker has an uncanny ability to tap into clichés to lower audiences’ guards and surprise them with a hard-to-come twist. The way in which Marnier executes his feature film walks between thriller, family drama and sardonic comedy, with sequences that have been compared to ‘Daggers in the back’, but that drink more from the splendid ‘8 women’ by François Ozon or ‘The ceremony’ by Claude Chabrol.
A thriller that takes advantage of conventions to surprise
What’s more, it would seem that it gives the impression that the eight women from Ozon and the chabrol housekeeper and postal service employee had met the Roy de ‘Succession’, with the figure of Jacques Weber being like a sweetened version of Brian Cox’s in the famous HBO series. A curious mix that makes ‘The Origin of Evil’ a stupendous work, that he knows how to play with that amalgam of references, to which he doesn’t mind paying tribute.
Laure Calamy leads this ambitious cast, in a role that, at times, could well be Toni Acosta’s cousin in ‘4 stars’. Dominique Blanc positively surprises, who manages to avoid the feeling of having the role of evil stepmother. Her narrative turns serve as a contrast to those of Doria Tillier, stepsister of the protagonist and whose ambition contrasts with the ambiguous intentions of Stéphane. It is also striking that the two daughters of the patriarch have masculine names.
With a luxury cast and a plot with a touch of sardonic humor, ‘The Origin of the Sea’ is a splendid thriller which once again demonstrates Sébastien Marnier’s ability to disturb from the unexpected.
The best: His desire to pay tribute to those first anonymous heroes.
Worst: Given the theme, something more reactionary would have been appreciated.