The worlds of sex and murder collide in “Stranger by the Lake,” a stark, explicit drama set at a lakeside gay cruising ground in France.
The film unfolds over a series of days in circular, existential rhythms, following protagonist Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) as he falls for Michel (Christophe Paou), despite witnessing the latter murder his previous lover in the lake.
The movie is a studied, Freudian depiction of the ways these two competing, elemental human drives congeal into a harrowing whole.
Franck’s revulsion at Michel’s conduct is overwhelmed by a deep, strong attraction. Their daily rendezvous are marked by aggressive sexual encounters.
Filmmaker Alain Guiraudie is uncompromising in his clinical focus on these moments, offering intense close-ups, steady wide images of naked bodies sprawled out beside the lake and long shots that observe the characters swimming in the water that becomes a sort of primordial soup.
Franck’s sexual connection with Michel contrasts with the friendship he forms with Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), a regular visitor who has come to the lake seeking an escape from his loneliness.
Henri completes the movie’s tripartite picture of this setting as a metaphoric staging ground for the most elemental life experiences: love, sex and death play out on the sand against the hot summer sun. “Stranger by the Lake” is so studiously controlled that it’s not an easy picture to watch, but you won’t forget it.
"Stranger by the Lake"
Directed by Alain Guiraudie
Starring Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou
Playing at Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center and IFC Center