That Day

(Ce jour-là, Raúl Ruiz, France/Switzerland, 2003)


One of Ruiz's finest, funniest and most elegant films, That Day also reveals the extent of Luis Buñuel's influence on his mature style and sensibility.

A black comedy with a surprising gore content and an unexpected lyricism (savour the waltz for ringing mobile phones ... ), it traces the fatal but also magical encounter of an insane woman (Elsa Zylberstein) who believes everyone she meets is an angel with a no less demented serial killer (Bernard Giraudeau) who becomes in a real sense her guardian angel – or exterminating angel.

The Swiss setting is all-important. Ruiz: "For me, Switzerland is a metaphor of the world to come. Switzerland is the birthplace of Dadaism, but also the World Bank, and terrorist activities of every sort. It's a place of refuge for revolutionaries and tyrants, money and dictators. Everything gets recycled in Switzerland, and no one sees it. Nuances become all-important."

Ruiz's inspiration came from Swiss films, as well as the novels of Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. An unfinished novel by Dürrenmatt about an ex-detective who returns to his home town, observes the corrupt evil-doings of its inhabitants, and then decides to simply do nothing, is transformed in Ruiz's reverie into a murder story in which the local cops decide, through a surreal logic, that they should not merely be seen to be doing nothing to solve the case, but actually do nothing. Swiss law and order.

Ruiz: "It's true that in talking about Switzerland, I'm really talking about Chile. The relation between the two countries rests essentially on the fact that everyone is complicit, aware, mixing and laughing with the victims. In both cases there's the banality of evil, false laughter and sickly pleasantries."

That Day is a film that shows a resurgence of the sometimes well-hidden political side of Ruiz's artistic imagination.

MORE Ruiz: Dark at Noon, Shattered Image, Three Lives and Only One Death, Time Regained, Three Crowns of the Sailor, The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror, Of Great Events and Ordinary People, Mysteries of Lisbon, La noche de enfrente

© Adrian Martin March 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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