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Under The Sand

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The opening scenes of François Ozon's Under The Sand are mainly notable for not being notable in any way. A middle-aged couple played by Charlotte Rampling and Bruno Cremer go about the business of vacation. Arriving at their summer home, they cook a meal, relax, and happily enjoy each other's company. What follows would have little of its impact if Ozon didn't take the time to show their domestic bliss. The next day, Rampling and Cremer head for the beach, with Cremer deciding to take a swim while Rampling settles in for a nap. When she awakens, he's disappeared. While the authorities and her friends conclude that her husband has drowned, Rampling remains unsure. Though she eases back into her job as an English professor at a French university and resumes her daily routine, she neglects to refer to Cremer in the past tense. After 25 years of marriage, Rampling has trouble giving it up; in the daytime, she shops for Cremer, and at night, she fantasizes that he never left, even while she tentatively explores a relationship with a friend of a friend (Jacques Nolot). In some respects, Under The Sand plays like a bookend to Roman Polanski's Repulsion, in which a sheltered Catherine Deneuve is driven to delusion by her inability to enter a world of adult sexuality. At the opposite end of youth, Rampling has trouble leaving the customs of domesticity, but through the slow accumulation of details, Ozon suggests that even more might be at work, and that her denial of Cremer's death is only the latest addition to a pattern of evasion. Creating a character at once sad, disturbing, and distant, Rampling delivers a performance of hidden depths perfectly in sync with the tone of the film. As with his previous See The Sea, another chronicle of a disappearance, Ozon explores how the shock of the new can bring to light fears and desires that have long lain dormant, and how public tragedies can obscure countless private disappointments.