User Reviews (30)

  • davidbyrne7712 February 2004
    A fishy tale
    There are opening scenes to movies, and then there's Maelstrom! Easily one of the most memorable and daring intro's I've seen in recent memory. I was humming that tune for days! The tale is simple, easy to follow, but I won't give it away - the unusual coincidences and twists in this film should be experienced fresh. However, the course of the story brings the viewer various emotions; frustration and disdain at a young woman engaging in questionable activities (not to mention the crime that she goes relatively unpunished for), humour in foreign situations (a heavy car, fisherman versions of justice), and finally happiness (but I won't say how). Oh, yeah, and it's narrated by a fish! Several fishes, I should say. Which gives the film a quirkiness that's refreshing, given the sometimes dark and depressing subject matter. <you twinkle above us, we twinkle below.......>
  • moortone19 August 2006
    10/10
    A dark fairy tale
    Maelstrom is a unique blend of happenstance, a touch of magical realism and a cautionary tale wrapped in the stunning cinematography Andre Turpin. Unfortunately when one reads a synopsis of the film the reviewers focus on a brief yet impactive scene that happens at the beginning of the film. The irony is this scene is handled deftly and tastefully by Director Denis Villeneuve. But due to the skewed American sensibilities surrounding sex and violence, a masterful portrayal of daily reality is maligned as shocking and graphic. Frankly I'm more disturbed by images I see on the nightly news and on reality TV. So if you can ignore the synopsis a brilliantly poetic piece of cinema awaits you. This is a well crafted film whose visual elements carry the tale, (a lesson M. Night Shamalyan could have used before engulfing his audience in the endless exposition of Lady In the Water) that is ultimately uplifting.
  • raymond-1514 July 2003
    8/10
    An imaginative tale that really grips you.
    Warning: Spoilers
    The film opens with an apology to all Norwegians affirming that the film is based on imagination. If you dislike fish, you had best not watch this film for it is decidedly fishy from beginning to end. Indeed even the narration is given by a North Atlantic fish about to have his head lopped off in a fish processing factory. Not a pretty sight (quite ugly in fact) with the fish and the process worker all covered in blood.

    I never dreamed that a fish would have a philosophic outlook on life and anxious to deliver prophecies such as "He who kills shall be killed" . Yes this is certainly an imaginative film...rather nightmarish in fact with its scenes of hallucinations and gore. Whatever next, you may ask. Let it be said, this film is never dull.

    Misfortune they say never comes singly as Bibiane ( Marie-Josee Croze) soon discovers. In the depths of despair through most of the film, she finally falls in love with the son of the fisherman she accidentally kills. This is a strange turn of events. But then there are many surprises in this film. For example, would you dare ask a stranger at a railway station what you should do if you killed some one accidentally and no one else knew about it? Hardly. But there is an interesting twist to this later in the film. Indeed the film is all twists and turns and convolutions together with lots of fish and fishy smells and water everywhere. But after all this is a story taking place in Norway.

    If imagination is a measure of quality, this film is it! Highly commended.
  • krn-22 September 2000
    9/10
    A contemporary tale
    I left the theater with a true smile "hooked" on my face. Here is a tale as grave and dark, and yet as lovely, as Grimm's original plots used to be, with however, a very personal imagery and contemporary twist. Fishes being cut in pieces by a fisherman tell this story about a young upper class women's life going from bad to worse. An neutral, almost "silent" camera shows very clean and beautiful takes of desperation and emptiness. Then, as the story turns, with odds only reality itself could invent, witty dialogs and situations light up the tale into a true bliss. The ageless fishes presents it all in a very solemn manner, conterbalancing wonderfully with the superficial and aimless modern world in which the characters live. The whole movie is thoughtful, questioning to the viewer and articulate in its very own way.
  • Tacitus-321 November 2000
    A Canadian Gem...
    "Maelström" heralds the arrival of a major directorial talent. Denis Villeneuve, who not only directed but also wrote the screenplay, displays a very high level of cinematic maturity. The film itself does not lead to any profound ending but rather peels off layer by layer. It's often unpredictable and at times hilarious. One thing to note is the astonishing camera and lighting work done by young cinematographer André Turpin. If this was a Hollywood production shot by a veteren Cameraman it would scream 'Oscar!, Oscar!' but alas.. Maelström was produced in a country that provides incentives to foreign productions yet does so little in encouraging and supporting homegrown talent.
  • mweston7 May 2002
    3.5 stars
    The film opens with a large, visibly injured, and obviously fake fish talking directly to the audience. Nearby a man is cutting up fish. The talking fish says that his life in nearly over, and he would like to tell a "pretty" story with his last breaths. Then we cut to a beautiful woman, in a doctor's office. We soon figure out that she is having an abortion. As we see the fetal matter being incinerated and her leaving the building, the grossly perky song "Good Morning Starshine" begins to play. Okay... This is obviously not going to be your normal film.

    The woman is named Bibiane (Marie-Josée Croze), and she turns out to be the main character. Perhaps related to the abortion, it soon becomes clear that her life is not going too well right now. Not long into the film she is removed from her position in the family business, a chain of upscale clothing stores, by her brother (although at first I thought he was her estranged or ex-husband).

    Most reviews or plot summaries go into more detail about events that occur in the middle and end of the film, but I'll keep it to that. There are some rather unlikely coincidences along the way, in case that sort of thing bothers you. And there is a distinct water theme, which is not surprising given the title. I would classify the film as primarily a drama, since the laughs are mostly at surprising events rather than strictly funny ones, and because the film kept me feeling slightly uncomfortable throughout.

    Marie-Josée Croze is very good here. The cinematography is excellent, with at least one shot that took my breath away. The story and the direction, both by Denis Villeneuve, on the other hand, are somewhat suspect. Besides the aforementioned coincidences, several scenes are juxtaposed in a seemly random manner, and you can't figure them out until later if then. Now this could just be a mechanism to get you to think, and in the wake of Memento (which came out at about the same time as this film) one is becoming used to the idea of the film structure mirroring the main character's thought processes. I'm not sure I completely buy this argument, but I'll give it a little leeway.

    This film won the best picture, direction, cinematography, screenplay, and actress awards in Canada at their equivalent of the Academy Awards, but it is only just now getting to the United States, where it is expected to play for a very short time. In the San Jose, CA area it is expected on May 17th.

    Seen on 5/5/2002 at the Camera Cinema Club in San Jose, CA.
  • Maxinequaye25 January 2001
    10/10
    Simply put - a beautiful film
    Reviews or descriptions won't do this film justice. Simply put, it is one of the most beautiful films I've seen. Too often directors forget that film is meant to be a VISUAL medium, and bludgeon their audience with a 10 minute scene of actors blathering at each other. You won't find that here. An intelligent treatment of the human condition, a wry sense of humour, great acting performances, and an excellent visual style make Denis Villeneuve a director to keep track of, and this film a joy to watch.
  • wlee0830 November 2009
    8/10
    Hypnotic, good story, but a little slow in places
    This is a somewhat 'arthouse' film with lots of symbolic metaphors intertwined into the story. The story itself is not bad, it is focused around one main character and manages to sustain the interest of the viewer through some clever turns. The filming, the imagery, are extremely well done at times, managing to convey perfectly a sense of isolation/dissociation. The drawbacks are certain extended scenes, romantic interludes that begin to feel a bit slow, a bit quiet. Some scenes could have been put, like the fish in this movie, on the chopping block. Still other scenes seem a little too fabricated/coincidental. Overall, this is a minor success, compelling and dramatic, interesting and original. No earth shattering epiphanies here, but still a solid tale done up in many colours.
  • Howard Schumann8 November 2004
    8/10
    And the secret of life is....
    "mælstrom" -- a large, violent whirlpool from which there is no escape

    The Chinese consider water as the abode of the dragon and the source of all life. Dennis Villenueve's Maelstrom is filled with multiple levels of water imagery: a fish as narrator, a suicide attempt in a river, the main character falling in love with a frogman, and scenes of repeated cleansing by water. Winner of five major Genie awards in 2001, Maelstrom is a playfully alive but dramatically intense look at the life a pleasure-seeking 25-year old boutique executive of (Marie Josee Croze) who runs into an emotional storm following an abortion and a fatal accident that she does not report. Like many who exist solely for their own pleasure, she manages to avoid responsibility but ends up having to deal with the results and becomes transformed in the process.

    Pierre Lebeau narrates the film in a heavy voice as a fish awaiting decapitation. Villenueve says that, "For me, it (the fish) is a kind of metaphor for all the storytellers from the beginning of mankind". It is an odd conceit but strangely effective. The fish tells the story of Bibi and we first meet her at a medical clinic undergoing an abortion. Guilt is written on her face as we witness her descent into alcohol and drugs. She is fired for incompetence by her brother and, after drinking heavily, is involved in a hit and run accident in which a Norwegian fish industry worker is killed. Spiraling downward, she attempts suicide but survives and falls in love with the dead man's son Evian (Jean-Nicholas Verreault) after attending the father's funeral.

    Maelstrom does not sound much like a romantic comedy but it is full of off-the-wall humor and suffers from an overabundance of cleverness. The film does not progress in linear fashion and there are several shifts of time and perspective to keep the viewer on edge. One flashback shows the chain of events that follows a complaint about the quality of the octopus in a restaurant and a stranger (Marc Gelinas) who keeps popping up in strange places to offer words of wisdom to the characters. The soundtrack also varies from Tom Waits to Edvard Grieg, even including "Good Morning, Starshine" from "Hair". Philosophical, surreal, absurd, symbolic, all with a creative touch similar to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie, Maelstrom tells us that the secret of life is…to be continued.
  • folkie-imdb16 November 2000
    6/10
    strange
    This is not a movie for the squeamish or for folks who need to understand everything...and frankly, I didn't see the point to one part of it...what the heck was that fish all about? The movie would have been better with no narration, let alone narration from something horrible and divorced from reality.

    But there are a lot of great moments. Don't take your date to this one, kids, but if you're in the mood for a look at some somber drama, consider this show. It's different. 6/10.
  • LeRoyMarko8 May 2005
    8/10
    Fish Activists Beware!
    Very interesting film about the human condition. A bit surreal. After an abortion (pro-life activists beware!), Bibi runs down an old man while driving drunk. First, she tries to keep that accident a secret. It's a downward spiral. But soon enough, she's looking for redemption. Marie-Josée Croze is excellent in her role. The choice of music is appropriate. I really liked the camera work, with the close-ups and the rapid camera movements. But one question remains: what's with the director's fascination with fishes?!? Seen at home, in Toronto, on May 7th, 2005.

    84/100 (***)
  • maximo2314 February 2001
    a regular artsy-wannabe movie
    I went to see the movie because it got excellent reviews from the local newspapers and websites here in Vancouver. I'd seen "Possible Worlds" a few weekends before, and it was truly an excellent movie, no cliches... silence used to build up angst and suspense....

    Maelstrom was nothing like it. It was a cross between a bad French comedy and a pretentious artsy movie. Trying to rid the plot from cliches and predictability, it was filled with the most absurd of situations. True, it was sometimes funny, and sometimes powerful - but it just seemed like a bunch of references scattered on screen, with music, imagery and pause used not to built the story, but to shock through being "unexpected" and "French artsy".

    But it was worth seeing. French-Canadian movies have a feeling of Nordic melancholy that can turn to the good or the bad. Mostly they turn to the good. and some turn nowhere. Like Maelstrom.
  • LAROCHE23 December 2000
    9/10
    Tormented souls united in a twisted way
    One of the best french-canadian movie of this year. A must-see for a true movie's lover. Remarkable big screen debut by Jean-Nicholas Verreault and Croze in leading roles. The lady displays a tormented character on a quest for the true meaning of life.
  • jzina17 September 2000
    9/10
    Unusual surprize movie at Toronto Film Festival 2000
    Life as told from a fish's mouth makes this psycho-drama rich with visual delight. Great acting, wild and crazy story will keep the audience agitated and interested. One of my favorites of the Toronto Film Festival.
  • Aaron White15 April 2015
    Great Film
    Excellent first major independent feature from Villeneuve and it demonstrates real, intelligent, talent. The lead actress, Marie-Josée Croze, is perfect in her role, I wouldn't want it any other way. This is one of those films I wish I could have been creatively involved in in any way because just being a part of it is a special thing. It's a special indie film from the grand year 2000. This is a film for serious viewers with deeper interests in film. I wouldn't recommend to someone just because they say they love Villeneuve's Prisoners. I would recommend it to someone who is really into film.
  • Nuno Duarte29 August 2011
    8/10
    movieinthepark.blogspot.com
    Warning: Spoilers
    Denis Villeneuve does it with particular style. This time the poor girl is Bibiane Champagne (Marie-Josée Croze), she's supposed to be daughter of some very important figure. Unable to fulfil all the expectations, she easily gets quite depressed so she often over drinks and does drugs. The problems obviously appear. After a rough night at some club, while driving home with quite an excess of alcohol in her blood, half awake half asleep, she hits a fishmonger. Afraid, she doesn't stop and concluding the rest of her way home. When she wakes up next morning her problem start. She feels persecuted and haunted what she did. After drowning her car, maybe to kill evidences, maybe to eliminate what she believed to be reminding her of the incident. Few days later, the fishmonger she had hit before was found dead at home. Few days later, she meets that fishmonger's son. This whole story is brought to you by the strangest means: the mouth of a huge and heinous fish, in a table waiting to have its head cut. About Croze, I think I'm not the only one to think there is a big waste of a talent in there. Its title Maelström stands for a very powerful whirlpool, very useful in myths and legends. Although it appears dark and heavy, this movie is very refreshing. Dennis uses a lot of bright colours, especially white and blue to contrast with the old and dragged voice of the dying fish. 8/10
  • richard-mason18 March 2003
    2/10
    Dead From the Fish Head Up
    Someone has to put a counterview, and I'm happy to do it. The film starts promisingly, with the fish head narrator, but descends so quickly into arty pretentiousness that any goodwill is quickly squandered. I found it so unbearably up itself that I walked out, something I rarely do. It was probably the worst film I saw at the 2001 Sydney Film Festival.
  • ndhand5 August 2003
    Blue
    I was rather excited to watch this film, and the first hour or so did not disappoint. It reminded me a lot of Kieslowski's Blue, and also a little bit of Red, in the character interaction, the cinematography, the use of colors, and just the overall mood. However, I thought that the last half went downhill. It suddenly switched from a journey into depression and internal conflicts to a cliched, improbable love story, almost as if the ending had been tacked on. The emotions of the main characters in the end shift too dramatically, and it seems as though no healing or reconciliation takes place (although apparently some does). The very ending, with the last words of the fish were too out of context, and I swear that they were borrowed directly from some other source. Perhaps my least favorite part of the entire movie comes at the ending on the boat, only because the song being played does not fit the mood at all, and changed my outlook entirely. All in all though, a feature worth watching, if only for the first half alone.
  • rpl22 August 2002
    10/10
    The closest thing to a "Perfect Movie" I have ever seen
    Maelstrom is a beautiful film told in a unique way. The director uses the unlikely narrator of a fish (with it's head perpetually about to/being cut off) telling the story of a beautiful woman who's life is a complete wreck. After meeting the man of her dreams, she realizes she has killed his father in a drunken car accident. Full of hilarious plot twists and non-chronological narrative jumps, this movie is amazing. If you ever get a chance to see it, do it. It will not let you down.
  • CinemaClown3 December 2017
    An Experimental Art-house Endeavour Pierced With Elements Of Dark Comedy
    Denis Villeneuve's sophomore effort may not be as rewarding as his later features and is unrefined in many aspects too but it is a bizarre piece of work that tackles the themes of guilt, grief, regret & atonement in its own wicked manner but what makes it worthy of a sit is the brilliant performance from its leading lady.

    Maelström tells the story of a young, depressed & alcoholic woman who is having a hard time living up to the expectations of being a celeb's daughter. Yet to recover from an unexpected pregnancy that led her to have an abortion, she finds herself in another mess after being involved in a hit-n- run accident while drunk driving.

    Written & directed by Denis Villeneuve, the story is narrated by a fish awaiting decapitation on a butcher's block and that opening moment when the fish starts talking nearly made me turn it off because what the f*ck. Fishes do play a symbolic role here but Villeneuve could've done without the voice-over because it adds nothing to the plot.

    The director's attempts to make it funny hits the right spot only on few occasions while falling flat other times. How the story unfolds carries an experimental feel and camera is finely utilised from start to finish. Other than the protagonist, there aren't any interesting characters in it but Marie- Josée Croze plays her part sincerely and her performance is this film's highlight.

    On an overall scale, Maelström inclines a little more towards the art-house section but it has plenty of moments that will keep the mainstream viewers around as well. Humour makes its presence felt in the most unexpected moments here but few creative choices don't go well with its overall tone. An early effort from the then-budding filmmaker trying to carve his own distinct style, Maelström is frustrating at times but it may still amuse some.
  • Ketsia Lessard8 May 2011
    8/10
    Disturbing film about grace?
    Warning: Spoilers
    Made in Québec, Maelström tells the story of Bibiane Champagne, a young entrepreneur stuck in a downward spiral leading to a suicide attempt and redemption through a relationship with a man whose father she hit and killed while drunk driving.

    Denis Villeneuve's film opens with his lead character undergoing an abortion. We then see Bibiane giving a phone call in the elevator declaring: "It's settled." Showing up at work, she is fired by her business partner, her own brother, for bad management that cost the clothing company $200 000. Bibiane is comforted by her friend Claire, an intellectual who's had three abortions herself. Claire has come to pamper Bibiane and help her get back to normal. "You must not feel guilty" she insists. But Bibiane is feeling increasingly bad. Claire throws a party in her apartment and Bibiane drinks heavily to daze her conscience. On her way home, she hits an old fishmonger crossing the street and drives on, leaving him half-conscious on the road. The man manages to get home and dies sitting in his kitchen chair. Bibiane is under shock. Her guilt reaches a peak, so she takes some drugs and heads to the discotheque to meet someone and have sex. Unable to escape her inner turmoil and wanting to get rid of any evidence of the hit and run, she tries to push her car into the Saint-Lawrence River. After some unsuccessful efforts, she resolves to drive it into the water and kill herself at once. The young woman survives and gets another chance at life. When Bibiane goes to the funeral home where her victim's ashes are, she meets the fishmonger's son Evian and pretends to be a neighbour. Evian asks her to help him sort his father's things, and she accepts. Love is kindled and Bibiane finally admits she is the murderer, asking Evian to kill her. Evian is torn, but chooses to forgive her and allows Bibiane to find grace.

    Put into context, this is a surprising film. Bibiane evolves in the most atheistic place in North America, a province with one of the highest suicide rates in the world and where one baby out of four is aborted. Christian symbolism is nonetheless very present in this story, as if Québec's conscience was screaming out for salvation. We see Bibiane numerous times in the shower trying to get clean, but only reconciliation through the son leads her to freedom.
  • valis194923 March 2009
    4/10
    Kissing To Be Clever
    MAELSTROM labored far too hard be unconventional, yet Denis Villeneuve(director) did demonstrate the possibility for a very interesting film. Guilt due to an abortion which is exacerbated by a hit and run incident communicates a compelling narrative, but why introduce...a talking fish??? Sure, one could make a case for a 'talking fish', but how about a 'laughing typewriter', or an 'all knowing piece of cheese'. You just can't introduce something so outré without explanation, or you cross the line into extreme pretension. Of course, the 'talking fish' might represent Fertility, yet 'a laughing typewriter' could also indicate a playful creator, or 'an all knowing piece of cheese' could represent all of the above. If you want to get weird, the weird can turn pro. MAELSTROM had a fine cast, but the script failed to blend the ham-fisted element of 'the fishy fable' with the story's inherent dramatic subject matter, and in the end, the film aborted
  • Python Hyena11 September 2015
    8/10
    Great Canadian Filmmaking.
    Warning: Spoilers
    Maelstrom (2000): Dir: Denis Villeneuve / Cast: Marie-Josee Croze, Jean-Nicholas Verreault, Stephanie Morgenstern, John Dunn-Hill / Voice: Pierre Lebeau: Dark comic drama that is predictable but stylish. The heroine's state of mind is in a whirlpool of burden due to alcohol and guilt after she hits someone while driving and doesn't realize it until the following day. Narrated by a fish that is about to be slaughtered, the heroine too feels within the same state as she runs her car off a bridge. She falls in love with the victim's son, which adds to complications although the dealing of the ashes is plain tasteless. Brilliantly shot with fable-like narrative style with director Denis Villeneuve with great use of dark humour. Marie-Josee Croze is fantastic in her fragile state and her struggle to deal with a relationship that is within the wrong side of her dilemma. Jean-Nicholas Verreault adds comic touches as the victim's son who is unaware of what really occurred and therefore will be rendered ignorant to it all. Stephanie Morgenstern play's Croze's friend who tells her the obvious but is helpless as to the effect of her advice. Pierre Lebeau is the voice of the narrator fish whose fate is sealed and who has time for this last tale. John Dunn-Hill is cast as a fishmonger, which seems appropriate given the circumstances. Intriguing low budget yet remarkable achievement in French filmmaking. Score: 8 / 10
  • George Parker1 August 2003
    5/10
    The ultimate fish story
    "Maelstrom" is all about Bibi (Croze) who has an abortion and then, traumatized and suffering pangs of guilt, she proceeds to perpetrate a series of felonies. So goes the plot of this amateurish film which is narrated by a fish. The upside of this subtitled French-Canadian film is good work by Croze and cast. However, the film shows an obvious lack of talent behind the lens. Uneven, herky-jerky, quirky to the absurd, with hackneyed irony, nonsense for filler, awful music, poor quality video and subtitling, and not fitting any genre, "Maelstrom" is one to be flushed. (D+)
  • eric10094 August 2003
    boring, utter waste of time, better spent elsewhere
    If you have read any summary for this film, either given by this site or other reviewers, then there you have it: you've seen the movie. Aside from the basic plot, nothing else happens. I bought this movie based on the rave reviews flooding these pages and I was shocked when I finally saw it. I fell asleep the first time I watched it, and then had to plod thru it a second time, in an attempt to get my money's worth. The few complaints you've read are all true! Through the entire film. Do not waste your time on this mess, you can thank me by renting a better movie like Abre Los Ojos or Magnolia.
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