Wealthy but disaffected would-be writer Simon (Stanislas Merhar) lives in an opulent flat with his grandmother (Françoise Bertin), their maid Françoise (Liliane Rovere), and Ariane (Sylvie Testud), the lover he obsesses over. Convinced that Ariane is having a lesbian liaison with the luminous Andrée (Olivia Bonamy), Simon takes to treating Ariane as a virtual prisoner, dogging her every move and restricting her social activities. On deciding to terminate the relationship Simon drives Ariane to a grand seaside hotel for a final, tragic night together.
Loosely based on Marcel Proust's "La Prisonnière" (a volume of "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" - one of literature's most demanding works) Chantal Akerman's "La Captive" is a gently captivating, deceptively austere work that mediates on the destructive nature of love, possession, and desire. Taking only the bare bones of Proust's tale (Akerman claims her film to be inspired rather than fully informed by it) has a liberating effect, allowing the director to also contemplate the complex nature of sexuality itself, a recurring motif of Akerman's work.
Formally the film plays to Akerman's strengths (simple, direct medium long-shots with fluid camera movement) using the empty, almost deserted landscapes (beautifully shot by Sabine Lancelin) to further heighten the sense of impending alienation. Impeccably scored (Rachmaninov and Schubert feature) and performed to near perfection, "La Captive" is a rich, rewarding work and further evidence of one of cinema's most singular talents.