The Girl on the Bridge, 1999

Adele (Vanessa Paradis) recounts with resigned acceptance to a clinical psychologist her history of failed, impulsive relationships and run of bad luck. She is uncertain about the future, waiting for the elusive something to happen, and her instinctive response is to escape the absurdity of her situation. One evening, she stands on a bridge, mustering enough courage to jump, when she is approached by Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) with an intriguing proposition. Gabor is an experienced knife-thrower who recruits potential suicides to serve as assistants for his cabaret act. If the routine is successful, she will be fairly compensated. If he misses, Gabor will only be facilitating her own decision to end her life. For reassurance, Gabor further reveals that, at times, he has intentionally missed (or rather, hit his target) when he senses that an assistant’s despair is beyond hope. The collaboration proves to be mutually beneficial, as Gabor and Adele begin to tour their popular act throughout Europe, often varying the routine with curtains, roulette wheels, or closed eyes. Soon, a profound connection develops between Gabor and Adele, communicating with each other across great distances and noisy casinos. But as the couple consummate their visceral attraction through intimately close and increasingly reckless knife throws, can they demonstrate their love without introducing an element of danger?

Patrice Leconte creates a visually intoxicating and highly sensual film on love, risk, and chance in The Girl on the Bridge. Using stylized short takes and frenetic jump cuts, Leconte reinforces the action of a thrown knife to create tension and charged energy, which, in turn, reflect Gabor and Adele’s dangerous attraction. The surreal, carnival atmosphere of the film, reminiscent of Federico Fellini, creates a state of heightened, altered reality that thematically juxtaposes chance and desire. Note the affair that develops between Adele and the contortionist (Frederic Pfluger) after winning at a slot machine, and the recurring imagery of the roulette wheel that transforms from a simple gambling device to Gabor’s ultimate game of chance. The result is an exquisitely realized and thoroughly engrossing film that presents love as both a literal and figurative consequence of risk, fate, courage… and, above all, complete trust.

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