Elsa, a woman with a long history of depression, in the midst of a divorce from her husband of twelve years, develops an obsession with a seven year old girl she sees at a birthday party ... See full summary »
I often tell people that if they want to see a film – avoid the trailer. In the case of 'Mark of an Angel' I'd tell them to avoid the poster. While so many trailers these days seem to be potted synopses of the whole film ('Public Enemies' being a massive case in point) the tag-line of this film may give a way a crucial plot element of the story. Which would be a pity as this is a really first-class film. Class being the operative word given the acting talent on show here.
Sandrine Bonnaire can do no wrong (unless it's required of her) and Catherine Frot has long since masked the art of barely suppressed tension and panic. Here she really brings it to the fore as she stars as Elsa, a woman with a long history of depression who develops a fascination with a seven year old girl she sees at a birthday party when she comes to collect her son. Determined to find out more about the girl she uses her son as a way in to the family ensuring that he befriends the girl's brother so that she can then befriend the girl's mother Claire (Bonnaire). She uses her son more and more in her pursuit of this obsession telling her employees that he is seriously ill so that she can run off and resume her stalking. She tells her parents she is dating so that they will baby-sit and she can do the same thing. At first Claire doesn't suspect anything but gradually notices that Elsa is paying too much attention to Lola – the girl in question. Meanwhile we are starting to realise why. Throughout the film you are not so much on the edge of your seat as pressed back into it. The tension as you wait desperately for Elsa to be found out is excruciating and when one particularly dramatic scene ends with what would normally be seen as the cop-out of Elsa suddenly waking up – you are just hugely relieved – they haven't caught her yet. And that's the thing – your sympathy is completely with Elsa, you cringe as she keeps accidentally turning up at every event involving Lola and her mother and you shudder as you watch this woman falling slowly apart. Frot really lays it on in this but Sandrine Bonnaire certainly holds her own when it comes her turn to convey the creeping (and increasing ) fear of this woman that is taking hold of her. There is one scene which is pure Hitchcock and clearly meant to be. Lola is performing in a ballet watched by her parents and brother in the audience. Claire notices her looking offstage to the wings a lot and when she turns herself she catches a glimpse of someone there. Is it Elsa? She can't be sure and she keeps straining between dancers to see but only gets the briefest of fleeting glances. It's an incredibly tense sequence of "Is it her?"/ "Is it not her?" made all the more so by the fact that we know – it is. Add to that the fact that the ballet the girls are dancing to is a musical simulation of a clock – ("Tick Tock" "Tick Tock") - and you're now pressed back into the seat behind you. This really is great stuff.