Vicky Krieps Mesmorizes in Mathieu Amalric’s Memory Puzzle of Separated Family
DIRECTED BY MATHIEU AMALRIC/FRENCH & GERMAN/2022 (U.S. Theatrical Release)
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 22, 2022/KINO LORBER
The latest mature drama to have been directed by French actor Mathieu Amalric (Venus in Fur) is not easy to talk about. This is true for many reasons, not the least of which is the close-to-the-vest truths of what exactly is going on. To state the realities of Hold Me Tight (Serre Moi Fort) would in fact be casting about spoilers. So, at this point, I’ll simply say that Amalric employs an experimental approach to evoke a potent concoction of memories, daydreams, and a delicate mental state surrounding a broken family situation. Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread, Corsage) once again reveals herself to be one of our truly Great emergent actresses. The film is like a painful open wound, but is so in a somehow enlightening way.
Okay. In order to continue on about Hold Me Tight, specifics are unavoidable. This review will give away no crucial spoilers, except maybe to say that Amalric (having also written the screenplay, based upon the play Je reviens de loin by Claudine Galéa) himself gives away the biggest one around the one-third point. Which means it’s really not fair to consider it a spoiler at all. But still, I’ll refrain from discussing such things further. Except to say, the pain is real. However much else is real is indeterminate.
As Hold Me Tight opens, Krieps’ character Clarisse is at home and frustrated. Spontaneously, she makes the decision to leave. Which she follows through on. Based on what we can glean from the implied length of her trip, this is an intentionally long departure. Seasons change. (In the Blu-ray bonus features, we learn that the film was shot in planned fits and starts over the course of a year and a half in order to capture this detail). Clarisse stops off for a while. She recalls the magical night she met her husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter), dancing in a club. Prior, she recalled later, not so great times with Marc. She felt a disconnect from her young son and daughter, Paul and Lucie (Sacha Ardilly and Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet) that much is clear.
Clarisse is gone a while. A long while. In that time, Paul and Lucie grow into teenagers (Aurèle Grzesik and Juliette Benveniste). The previously fit Marc begins to transition into “dad bod” territory. Clarisse, in her snowcapped remote location, flirts with strangers and shouts down others. She is erratic, unsure, and above all, caught up in her own head. Amalric makes this clear in his untethered editing style and his positively Godardian use of sound. An errant piano key strike returns throughout the film. Lucie, a promising student of the piano, might depart the instrument midway through a composition, yet we’ll hear it continue uninterrupted. Crucial details are withheld, revealing them as perhaps not crucial at all. Hold Me Tight feels like a dream you can’t shake free of set to a Beethoven piano sonata.
The bonus features included on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of Hold Me Tight are blessings insofar as Amalric’s openness and enthusiasm to walk us through his processes and methodology. In that, he clarifies what exactly is really happening and not happening in the story. They are details that become apparent in subsequent viewings, though it’s great to hear the filmmaker so unapologetically invested in his own symbolism, details, and character perceptions. (God bless the French artistic legitimizing of cinema). In the eighteen-minute film festival Q&A video and the proprietary interview for the Blu-ray, both Amalric and Krieps come off as authentic, honest, and extremely invested in this film. (Both of those features are in English). Which makes sense, considering the toll it must’ve taken on them. Amalric is less animated on his French-language (English subtitled) audio commentary track, though no less revealing.
Hold Me Tight is, for me, a late contender for positioning on my Best Films of 2022 list. Deceptively detail-heavy and even detail-driven, the heaviness of the story is served by the need to look again. In this sense, Blu-ray is an ideal platform for the title. It may not be anyone’s most watched library title, but its place on the shelf is solidly earned. Amalric cements his standing as a truly inspired filmmaker, and Krieps, bold and ever challenging herself, is the perfect lead in this dreamlike nightmare of seasons changing and struggling to find one’s footing.