Horror Becomes Her - Trouble Every Day (2001)
Horror and films directed by women are both big blind spots for me, so I am taking this deep dive into some of the more outre films I have come across in my movie watching.
Though I have seen many films directed by Claire Denis, she is someone whose work I grapple with and I want to continue to grapple with. I didn’t get Beau Travail the first time I watched it, or the second time, or even the third time, but I knew that I wanted to keep engaging with her work because the ways that she presents certain images and themes are so different from other directors that I almost have no sign post to point me in the right direction with her.
Trouble Every Day is filmed so dispassionately that it could come across as cold or clinical. It would make sense to portray the subject of oversexed cannibals as almost a wildlife documentary. In fact, when someone asks Vincent Gallo’s Dr. Shane Brown if he loves the woman that he is trying to track down, he replies that “love isn’t the correct word for it.” Seeing the extremely violent acts committed by both Brown and Core, the object of his pursuit, filmed in such a non-sensationalistic way strangely gives humanity to the monsters themselves. They are creatures of need trying to fill up a void in their stomachs and lives, and morality is decidedly secondary to them.
Endowing these monsters with humanity does not mean that Denis endorses their actions. In fact, one of Brown’s victims, a maid at the hotel that he and his wife are staying at, is featured heavily in the film even though she is not given many lines. We see her go about her everyday life, dreary and mundane as it is, yet we feel the tragedy of her death much more since Denis took time to grant her humanity. She is just as much a creature of need as Brown is, but she is still very much a victim the way women often are, at the violent and predatory hands of a privileged man.
Trouble Every Day is a challenging and even ugly film, but I think it is of a piece with the rest of her work, especially in how our bodies are in service of much baser needs than we care to admit.