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Film / Under the Sand

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Under the Sand (Sous le sable) is a 2000 French drama film directed by François Ozon, starring Charlotte Rampling and Bruno Cremer.

Marie (Rampling) and Jean (Cremer) have been married for 25 years. They go on vacation on the Atlantic coast. Jean goes for a swim and he disappears. Marie cannot admit that he is probably dead.

Under the Sand provides examples of:

  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Subverted. Marie makes love with Vincent in her bedroom. Her husband enters the room, but it is only his Living Memory, since he is dead.
  • Call-Back: Marie imagines that she has breakfast with Jean. She butters a toast for him. Later, she does the same for Vincent.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Marie masturbates. She imagines that Jean caresses her.
  • Driven to Suicide: Zig-zagged. Marie comtemplates the possibility that Jean committed suicide. Jean's mother does not think that it is possible. This hypothesis is not confirmed nor ruled out.
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  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The film opens to a view of Notre-Dame de Paris.
  • Forceful Kiss: When he drives Marie home after the dinner at Amanda's, Vincent kisses Marie's mouth and she asks him to stop.
  • Grow Old with Me: Marie and Jean are an old couple. They have been married for 25 years.
  • Happily Married: Marie was happily married to Jean. Whether Jean was happy too is questioned. The whole movie is a Deconstruction of the trope, because it shows that, even if you are happily married, you might not be aware of the true feelings of your spouse (so much so, as not to realize that he is Driven to Suicide). It also demonstrates how bad you feel when your spouse disappears.
  • Identification by Dental Records: The body of Jean is identified by dental records, because it remained in the sea for a long time.
  • Inspiration Nod: On the beach, Marie reads Le Lys dans la vallée by Honoré de Balzac. In this novel, the protagonist, Félix de Vandenesse, decides to stop having relationships with women after the death of his platonic lover, Madame de Mortsauf. This mirrors the situation of Marie, who cannot start a relationship with Vincent after the disappearance of Jean.
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  • I See Dead People: Marie sees her late husband, Jean, in her flat. She can interacts with him. When she receives a phone call from the police that informs her that a body was found, she does not see him any more, but he comes back when she sleeps with Vincent. In the end, she sees him on the beach where he disappeared.
  • Lady in Red: Marie buys a red dress. When she comes back home, she imagines that she shows it to Jean and asks him if he likes her. She wears this red dress when she masturbates and imagines that Jean caresses her.
  • Little Black Dress: Marie wears one during the dinner at Amanda's.
  • Living Memory: Marie cannot forget Jean. He appears to her in her flat and she can interact with him. No one else but her can see him.
  • The Lost Lenore: The whole movie is about how Marie deals with her husband's disappearance. In the end, it is revealed that the body that was found is identified as Jean from dental records.
  • Love Triangle: A strange case where one of the love interests is imaginary. Vincent tries to charm Marie. Marie starts a relationship with him, but eventually chooses her husband's Living Memory.
  • Meaningful Echo: Marie imagines that she sleeps with Jean and she asks him if he has set the alarm. Later, she asks Vincent the same thing when she sleeps with him.
  • The Mourning After: Maria cannot forget her disappeared husband. She tries to start a relationship with Vincent, but it fails.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Jean's mother is not nice to Marie. She tells Marie that Jean was bored by her and that he probably fled from her.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The events of the film are triggered by the disappearance of Jean. In the end, it is confirmed that he died (the body that was found is identified as him from dental records).
  • Pool Scene: Marie goes to the swimming pool at some point, which shows that she is still fit for her age.
  • Posthumous Character: Jean probably drowns himself in the first minutes of the film. In the end, it is revealed that the body that was found is identified as Jean from dental records. The whole movie is about how Marie deals with his disappearance. Marie also imagines that she interacts with him.
  • Romancing the Widow: Vincent tries to pick up Marie, whose husband has disappeared.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Vincent. He tries to charm Marie. Marie starts a relationship with him, but eventually chooses her husband's Living Memory. Marie outright tells him that he just doesn't measure up.
  • Sanity Slippage: Marie cannot accept the probable death of her husband. She imagines that he still lives with her in their flat and that she interacts with him. She talks about him to her friends as if he was still living with her.
  • Shoutout: At the university, Marie works on The Waves by Virginia Woolf.
  • Silver Fox: Marie (Charlotte Rampling) is an older (over 50) woman who is depicted as still attractive (she is fit, she puts on makeup, she wears sexy dresses). Vincent, for example, tries to pick her up.
  • Skinny Dipping: German tourists swim in the nude on the beach where Jean disappears.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: In spite of her age, Marie stays in shape and takes care of her appearance: she does a lot of sports, she puts on makeup, she wears sexy dresses. Jean, her husband, is fat and much less elegant.

Alternative Title(s): Sous Le Sable


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