Saw, in all its iterations, is shallower than a pygmy’s grave. Its cartoon implementation of violence is a one note, pornographic system that thinly veils its indulgent nature behind a feeble discussion of animal survival and ‘the evils of modern living’.
Almost single handily, it seems, it spawned a thousand imitators and opened the flood gates for a practical battalion of low budget torture slogs cashing in on the perverse pleasure of physical savagery.
The list of genuinely thought provoking films existing within this petty sub-genre can be counted on one’s right hand, W(delta)Z and Martyrs being the only two immediately springing to mind. However, director Daniel Grou’s gritty and intense psycho drama, 7 Days, can now proudly add itself to that list.
The set up is simple but quietly earth shattering. Dr Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) and his wife Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) live a picture perfect life in an affluent French suburb with their young daughter, Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier). But when Jasmine goes missing a week before her birthday, things suddenly take a grim, paralyzing turn.
She is soon found dead, having been raped and murdered. The man responsible is arrested and, on route to court, kidnapped by Bruno and taken to an isolated cabin. Here, Bruno promises, he will be tortured for six days and killed on the seventh, Jasmine’s birthday.
Nearly all of this happens before the opening title card.
Chillingly disciplined and emotionally raw, the film never allows for an easy escape. No score is provided at any point, one is never told how to feel via melody. The camera stares at the action with cold persistence. All colour and life is washed out of the frame, a bright, dull, surgical light illuminates not only the environment but the tormented souls of anyone unfortunate enough to come under it.
Bruno, especially, is focused upon with scrupulous curiosity. His confused machinations play out in front of us with staggering brutality. His mental state decays with each passing day, as does the deer cadaver that slowly rots outside his lair.
Whatever naivety he held towards his actions and his glorified vision of justice and revenge, gradually and steadily evaporates.
Every time he hurts his captive, he hurts himself in turn.
His psychological war of attrition raises some important questions; to what extent is he, as the torturer, torturing himself? Are his sadistic actions a form of self harm? Is this pain the only way he can appease his own guilt? Does he feel entirely responsible for an unforgiveable murder he did not commit and could not have prevented?
These queries are addressed with surprising balance and impartiality, each one given plentiful space to breathe and time to be fully explored. Of course, with such objectivity, inevitably, more questions are raised and none are truly answered. Hamel’s troubled condition and the course he takes exist within an obscured grey area where nothing is certain and everything is yet to be decided. And that is as it should be, because there are no easy answers regarding the psychology of the human mind.
The movie’s success derives from its ability to step outside itself and view the mess before it with both total empathy and methodical analysis. Whatever elements it takes from the Torture-Porn genre it does so selectively and inventively. As a result, the damaging effects of violence to ones psyche are focused on, rather than the violence itself.
In this film there is no torture porn, just torture, and that is truly captivating.
7 Days is available today from all reatailers worth a damn.
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