“It is choices like this that make Le Ravissement a compelling drama, and if this is what Kaltenbäck can do on her debut then the 35-year-old has a bright future ahead.”
Lydia (Hafsia Herzi), a dedicated and caring midwife, sees her world shattered when her boyfriend confesses he has cheated and breaks up with her. After disappearing in her work for weeks, she takes it upon herself to help her best friend Salomé (Nina Meurisse) through her pregnancy as best she can. The delivery is a stressful one, Lydia pushing Salomé to the edge, but eventually a healthy daughter is born. As she takes the young girl off the exhausted parents’ hands for a moment, she runs into Milos (Alexis Manenti), a one-night stand from the dark period after her breakup. In a moment of bitter loneliness she tells him that the girl is his, and this lie will haunt her as she digs herself deeper in an effort to build a bond with Milos, thereby orchestrating her own downfall.
Anchored by a beautifully subtle yet powerful performance by Herzi, Kaltenbäck’s strong and confident debut Le Ravissement is at its core a simple drama about the need for human connection and the despair of loneliness, but told in such a measured and compelling way that it becomes more than the sum of its elements. Outside Lydia faking the results of a paternity test, the screenplay, also written by Kaltenbäck, doesn’t have to rely on coincidence and a convoluted storyline, which makes Le Ravissement all the more involving. But it’s not just Lydia’s story that captivates, it is also the way Kaltenbäck chooses to tell it. Framing it with a voice-over by Milos narrating the story, the director gets the chance to have him foreshadow the ending, building tension and intrigue on the how and why of Lydia’s arc. The scene in which a desperate Lydia takes a lot of risks and endangers the newborn as Salomé delivers her daughter is a veritable nail-biter. Kaltenbäck’s direction is straightforward and unobtrusive, letting the story tell itself and Herzi do her magic, although this does mean that visually the film is somewhat flat.
What gives Le Ravissement the extra push is Herzi’s performance, one of her best to date. Her soft-spoken Lydia is a fully lived-in character, and it is not an easy one to play given how she unravels and loses the audience’s sympathy as the story evolves. Herzi keeps things small, putting everything in her eyes and vocal inflections. A smart choice, as it doesn’t totally ruin her character for the audience and garners Lydia pity. This is why having Milos, who will essentially be a victim of Lydia’s decisions, be the one who tells the story is such a good idea, as it slowly guides the audience into shifting their perception of Lydia. It is choices like this that make Le Ravissement a compelling drama, and if this is what Kaltenbäck can do on her debut then the 35-year-old has a bright future ahead.