By Michael McNulty
Thomas Kruithof debut feature film, Scribe, has all the trappings of a taut, American, political thriller. It’s a tense, dark, paranoia flick and although it may, at times, find itself a little lacking it still a good run for your money.
Scribe opens as Duval (François Cluzet), an accountant pushing retirement age, frantically struggles to put together, having been dumped with the task last minute, an important file for an even more important meeting. As the night pushes on he works his way through the job and a bottle of scotch. By morning he is done, both in task and in spirit.
Fast forward to two years later and we find Duval at an AA meeting, unemployed and on the backend of a breakdown, struggling to sleep and in need of a something to occupy his “mind and body, like everybody else.” Fortune rings, quite literally, one day and Duval finds himself being offered a job by the enigmatic Clément (Denis Podalydès), working to transcribe taped recordings of phone calls under the pretence that is in protection of the national interest.
Duval soon finds himself privy to a political underworld of backdoor doings, manipulation and murder and becomes embroiled in a world of uncertainty, forced to fight his way out or run the risk of losing his life.
The film is vaguely Kafkaesque, specifically bringing to mind Orson Welles’ masterful 1962 screen adaptation of The Trial. Although it is established early on that the film is set in France, the world beyond that is non-specific, a characterless city held together by a web of secrets, phone tapping and political backhanding and sitting on the lowest rung, but somehow finding himself at the centre of it all is a seemingly innocuous former accountant.
Beneath the thin veil of its complex narrative Scribe is a simple film, but it is great in the way that it forces Duval’s perspective upon the viewer, keeping us, like him, guessing and questioning. Kruithof and cinematographer Alex Lamarque create a world of palpable paranoia heightened through the progressive stripping of colour throughout the course of the film (by the films end the world has been reduced to near monochrome) and the sparsely decorated sets, which add a sense of dislocation and ambiguity.
Cluzet puts in a suitably muted performance playing Duval. His grey, aging, former alcoholic in desperate need of a routine to make sense of the chaos around him is measured, understated and totally believable.
Scribes paranoia fuelled plot and aesthetic boast a confident start to Kruithof’s filmmaking career.
Scribe is in cinemas from Friday 21st July.