Archived: Review: The Woman In The Fifth (2011) - archived

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I’m usually one for mind-bending thinkers of films, however this Pawel Pawlikowski thriller has passed by my radar. It wasn’t until my better half suggested we watch it as it had shown at her theatre that my interest piqued over some initial research.

The story follows ex-college lecturer come author Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) fly out to Paris to meet up with his estranged wife and daughter, however an impromptu visit to his ex-wife’s sparks her to call the police and Tom to flee. Falling asleep on the bus he wakes up in an odd part of town with all his belongings stolen from him.

He finds a room above a cafe that will allow him to work off the rent by guarding a mysterious door where obvious murders are taking place. Tom starts to write a letter to his daughter, spying on her in the playground around sleeping with Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the cafe owners wife Ania (Joanna Kulig).

The mystery doesn’t start to build until the final act when it seems that the writers appeared to realise they were going no-where with the script so just tacked on a random ending. We never get any answers, we never find out what Tom was in trouble for in the first place or if he is sane.

The twist comes when Tom’s neighbour is found murdered in the toilet, days after Tom asked him to flush after he’d used the facilities. His alibi is that he was with Margit, but the police find that impossible to believe because Margit has been dead for years. Committed suicide after her husband and child were taken from her.

Finally a clue you’d think. Tom has lost his wife and daughter, we’re led to believe they fled to Paris, but perhaps they died and this is all one suicide induced haze? Perhaps the letter he is writing to his daughter is his suicide note? We often find Tom trapped in small rooms, be it his bedroom or his workplace, guarding the door, or a prison cell. Perhaps he is actually committed to an insane asylum and this is his imagination.

Whatever is really going on, it’s not enough to really worry about. Whilst Hawke and Scott Thomas put on some fine performances, the source material isn’t strong enough to make them stand out. It appears to be “artsy” for the sake of it, shifting between languages and showing us the not so glamorous side of Paris. The sound-editing is poorly done with tense, quiet scenes ruined by crackling grain or the thumps of feet on marble.

Despite its casts bests efforts it appears that The Woman In The Fifth is just another video blunder that showed promise but failed to deliver, wrapping itself up in a convoluted plotline to try and hide the fact it never carried any real substance. This will leave you wondering, questions of “what was that all about” and “how does this sort of stuff get made” at the forefront of my mind.

Archived: Review: The Woman In The Fifth (2011) - archived
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