It would appear that since the first rejuvenating wave of French hardcore cinema we all waited with baited breath for the follow-ups to Inside, Martyrs, Frontiers and Haute Tension. Certainly these movies were all immediate classics, and one would hope that what followed would be up to the same uncompromising standard. Certainly ‘The Divide’, directed by Xaiver Gens (Frontiers) shares the same ethics as its predecessor, but replaces shock violence for sheer dehumanising realism.
From its response, both critically and public, it would appear that ‘The Divide’ came as something of a curve ball, and one which I freely admit took a few days of thought to decide on my final opinion of the movie. Overall I decided the fact I was thinking about it for the days following meant that, in terms of cinematic impact, it had succeeded as Frontiers had.
The plot ventures a little into sci-fi territory, seeing the survivors of a nuclear blast seek shelter in their buildings basement, fully kitted out, conveniently, by the building’s survivalist caretaker. From within the shelter we see the survivors facing an uncertain future, with the plot focussing purely on their mental degradation, as the unknown threat from outside the shelter forces them into some questionable niches within the group.
The rather simple premise, which in the hands of a less skilled director could have deteriorated into a bog of a movie, is skilfully divided into several subplots which help carry the pace through to the climax of the movie, which, as with most movies of this ilk, is something of a spectacle. Myself and C often use the analogy of a downward spiral when describing these movies plots in that they start off by placing the characters in the shit, but somehow things just keep getting worse and worse; often when you think how much worse could it get! Normally, these negative changes to the scenario come from non-anthropogenic factors or events, but what I enjoy (using the term rather loosely) about these French movies is that these external factors only serve to be the bend before the break, with the characters themselves being carefully crafted into subtle satires of humanities most depraved vices - with the shocking deeds conducted asa result of reactions to, not directly caused by, the less convenient situations and the selfish exploitation of them.
It is on this point that The Dividehits the mark. The acts and deeds contained within the movies runtimefulfil all the necessary horror extreme criteria, torture, hints of racism and sexual exploitation, but what makes the impact is not the violence, which if you are looking for things as strong as Frontiersyou will be a little disappointed (although it is strong enough in some parts to satisfy),it’s the underlying theme that these people controlled their own actions, it’s the possibility of how small self-orientated actions always compound to someone else losing. Reducing the characters to an animalistic portrayal of our species shows that some are stronger than others, and with strength comes the inevitable exploitation of the weak.
Overall, as you may have guessed from this review ‘The Divide’ is not a movie made with the intention to shock the casual audience. It is a careful satire of human nature, and as such comes across as more of a dark drama rather than the extreme horror movie you might have been expecting. That so, whilst I completely understand some viewers being a little disappointed by the shift in direction, but there is so much more to this movie than what is shown. Its impact on your psyche, however, should not be underestimated.