Themroc (1973)


France. 1973.


Director/Screenplay – Claude Faraldo, Producer – Helene Vager, Photography – Jean-Marc Ripert, Music – Harald Maury, Special Effects – Andre Trielli. Production Company – Les Productions FDL/Filmanthorpe


Michel Piccoli (Themroc), Beatrice Romand (Themroc’s Sister), Francesca R. Coluzzi (Neighbour), Marilu Tolo (Secretary), Mme Herviale (Mother)


After he is questioned for accidentally spying on his boss making love to his secretary, the factory worker Themroc suddenly becomes bestial and only communicates in grunts. Back home, Themroc takes his sister as his lover, bricks up the apartment and smashes all his possessions in a orgy of destruction. As the authorities are called in to quell his actions, the behaviour starts to spread to the neighbours in the apartments across the courtyard.

Director/writer Claude Faraldo construed this anarchic French fantasy as a radical no-holds-barred attack on bourgeois values. Themroc is a film where Faraldo almost entirely rejects any dialogue – which is suitable considering the central character’s rejection of anything more than primitive verbalisms himself – such that the distributors did not even need to bother with subtitling or translating the film for English-speaking audiences. There are times that Themroc tries one’s patience – like the lengthy opening that consists only of several minutes of shots of people walking to work.

However, once Claude Faraldo unleashes his primitives, the film makes its points in much the same brutal but playful way that most of its characters communicate. It has an anarchically invigorating splendour – the long scenes of Michel Piccoli smashing his apartment to pieces with a sledgehammer and throwing his material possessions out the window have a guiltily exhilarating catharsis to them. As the film progresses, so does its sense of humour – like when the woman across the courtyard breaks out and is cautiously emulated by her meek husband – she joyously bashes with a sledgehammer while he nervously taps at things with a small claw hammer; or the charming scenes at the end where the barbarians try to tempt a handsome bricklayer who does his best to ignore them as they playfully poke fingers into his wet cement, before he strips off his clothes and joins in too.

While the film is ragged around the edges and undisciplined at times, it does have a potent rawness. The last freeze-frame image of an arm waving through a bricked-up hole serves as a memorable image of Claude Faraldo’s symbol of the barbarian that remains defiant despite society’s restraints.

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