Who killed Bambi? Review

Isabelle (Sophie Quinton) is a young nurse who is struggling to finish her exams whilst working in a hospital. She seems quite lost most of the time though her cousin Véronique (Catherine Jacob) helps her as best she can but tends to be overly bossy towards her. As the pressure of the exams and the work build up, she starts to become excessively anxious. She has also started to faint for no apparent reason but is unwilling to see a doctor about it. The cold Dr. Phillip (Laurent Lucas) witnesses one of these episodes and gives her the nickname of Bambi but shows his concern towards her in a strange manner. Isabelle is not sure about how she feels about the Doctor but there seems to be bizarre chemistry going on.

Gilles Marchand has long been touted as one of France's best scriptwriters and has signed many successful scripts over the last decade ranging from adaptations (Rappeneau's Bon Voyage) to original creations (Harry, he's here to help). In Who killed Bambi?, he's co-penned another original script and managed to secure the director's seat for the first time in his career. I must confess: I didn't really like Harry, He's Here to Help - it had interesting touches here and there but I left the cinema feeling slightly short changed. However, the film had a huge legion of fans and was an international hit so what do I know? Still Bambi seems to replicate a lot of the things that I disliked about Harry but relies on a more solid structure. Lucas - who played Harry's clueless schoolfriend - returns in a completely different role and with a different haircut, pulling off an excellent performance as the clinically chilly Phillip. Opposite him, the pretty Quinton also fills the screen with her wide-eyed innocence and naivety, making her endearing yet exasperating. The third major character is really the large, cavernous hospital from which the characters seldom exit (Isabelle lives on campus and Phillip seems to never go home). The sets are very effectively constructed with blinding whites contrasting with low-lit rooms, making the viewer feel uneasy with the decor within the first few minutes. This malaise carries the film throughout it's length and is possibly the best innovation within the film. The support cast also play their role very well, particularly Catherine Jacob, a familiar face yet too often only a supporting actress - she gives a much needed anchor in reality to the cast with her down to earth, no-nonsense take on life.

The script is also very well written with a lot of humour injected here and there which is served well by naturalistic performances by the cast. The plotting is possibly what is the most problematic as it peaks far too rapidly leaving the viewer wondering where the film can go for the last half an hour. The structure is also counter-intuitive for a thriller as it is almost built backwards meaning that the thrust of the film is somewhat skewed. Strangely, it reminded me a lot of the American novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park - great characters, sharp observations but the plotting is its Achilles heel. Marchand once again shows that he can write interesting scripts but may be a little too clever for his own good - even his idols would have shied away from some of the osé tricks he pulls on the audience so maybe his next effort will hopefully address this and prove to be a resounding success.

The DVD:

The image:
The OAR of 2.35:1 is respected in an anamorphic transfer that generally behaves well with the strong whites and darker scenes. Natural grain is quite visible on close inspection but not really visible from a normal distance. The print is clean and the subtitles are not burnt-in but player generated and can be removed.

The sound:
Unusually for a French release we get 3 possible soundtracks - a minimalistic stereo, a good expansive 5.1 and an equally good DTS track. Although the film does not rely on the soundtrack to be effective, a lot of work has gone into the soundtrack but this is relatively subtle with the strange, echo-laden sound of the hospital being rendered very effectively.

The extras:
We only get a bunch of trailers for Tartan releases and the film's own trailer. That's it - for reference the French release feature a double DVD set with quite a lot of extras.

Bambi is a deceptive film that claims to be something very different than what it actually is - it does work on some levels but fails to hold itself together and will ultimately disappoint a lot of the viewers. There are still a lot of redeeming qualities that make any Marchand script worth watching but it's a matter of taste whether Bambi is a hit or a miss.

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