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Seville Pictures presents
Thomas in Love (Thomas est amoureux) (2000)

Melodie: Thomas, I want you to go outside.
Thomas: I can't.
Melodie: I want to see you here, with me.
Thomas: I can't.
Melodie: I want to touch you.
Thomas: No.

- Magali Pinglaut, Benoît Verhaert

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: August 02, 2002

Stars: Benoît Verhaert, Aylin Yay, Magali Pinglaut
Other Stars: Micheline Hardy, Alexandre von Sivers, Frédéric Topart, Serge Larivière, Eric Kasongo, Dominique Baeyens
Director: Pierre-Paul Renders

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature themes and content. 18A in Canada)
Run Time: 01h:33m:30s
Release Date: February 01, 2002
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-A-A- C+

DVD Review

In the future, your insurance company is your best friend.

For Thomas (Benoît Verhaert), a thirty-two-year-old acute agoraphobic who hasn't had human contact for the past eight years, the insurance company provides all his essential services. Thomas' only connection with the outside world is through his videophone, the screen he lives in front of twenty-four hours a day. Everything he needs can be found here, even relationships. Until recently, he has been content with having intimate online encounters with Clara, a 3-dimensional, computer-generated character, but despite being able to simulate sex by wearing a special body suit, he is growing bored. The insurance company is responsible for maintaining Thomas' mental well being, and informs him that, due to his handicap, he qualifies for free services from one of the online "live" prostitution services. He chooses Eva (Aylin Yay), but when she bursts out crying—even though her professional detachment is mandatory—and refuses to service him, Thomas becomes obsessed with her.

His company-supplied psychologist (Frédéric Topart) feels Thomas is in need of change in his life, and signs him up for a cyber-dating service. He reluctantly obliges, but after a few false starts, Thomas finds a woman of interest when he meets Melodie (Magali Pinglaut), who seems a promising prospect. Thomas believes he may be in love; however, when he refuses to participate in anything but remote sexual experiences, the girl loses interest, and he is left alone again. Thomas' insular world is crumbling, with even something as simple as getting a vacuum cleaner repaired becoming an ordeal, necessitating an elaborate airlock system to avoid facing a living being in person.

Thomas in Love (Thomas est amoureux) is one of the most original films I have seen in some time. To start with, despite being in every scene of the movie, the lead character is never seen. The entire film is what appears on Thomas' computer video screen from his perspective. We learn about Thomas through his encounters with others via the videophone, his only gateway with the outside world, constantly interrupted by his mother calling. Thomas in Love takes the idea of the isolationism of an online society and protracts it to its extremes—his aversion to "outside" is so great that he even has to have people he is conversing with keep elements such as the sky or trees off camera. The underlying context is one of self-imposed alienation and antisocial behavior, but the film manages to take this situation and turn it into a very funny series of vignettes following the main character's coming to terms with his condition while dealing with his daily life. At its core is the need for love and human contact, entities that the detachment afforded by technology have removed from common being. The look of the film adds to its surreal qualities, since we are actually watching a video screen throughout the entire film, complete with the distorted field of vision one expects from computer-top video cameras, and this detached presence really adds to the presentation.

The acting is excellent, from Thomas' annoying mother (Micheline Hardy), to the women he meets online. It is difficult to convey how different this film is, with a feel unlike anything I have seen before, though the claustrophobic sense begins to grow after a while. The design elements are imaginative, and its opening a flourish of CG modelling. The humor is low key, derived from the absurdity of the situation, but in an odd way, it is not that far off base for those who interact with the ether on a daily basis. Each of the characters has quirks that make them interesting, compounded by the insane length that Thomas goes to avoid ever seeing another human in the flesh. The style is disjointed, interruptions being the norm and not the exception, with the video equivalent of call alert providing unexpected intrusions at every turn. This is a very unique experience, and one I can fully recommend to those who looking for something unusual.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Image quality, while hard to judge due to the intentional look of the film, is very good. Colors are vibrant when called for, black levels solid. There are many intentional video defects present, such as hues or other stylistic treatments, but no technical anomalies were observed.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: Like the video, the French surround track is purposefully processed, which suits the film perfectly. Any "flaws" are intentional, and I noticed no other technical glitches such as distortion or dropouts that seemed out of place.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Making of featurette
  2. "Sextoon" sequences
  3. Reversable packaging
Extras Review: One very welcome extra is the making-of featurette that shows the strange way in which the film was shot. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the picture, but this explains a lot about how the unique look was achieved. A theatrical trailer is also included.

The movie opens with a computer animated "sextoon," and here that segment is presented out of context. This was an interesting setup, since I had no idea what to expect after it.

Menus are bilingual (French and English) as is the packaging, which features a reversable cover.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Thomas in Love was a welcome surprise, with its striking, original look and quirky, engaging story. Director Pierre-Paul Renders has delivered a sharply funny, voyeuristic film experience, taking the concept of a wired world to the extremes, and the DVD delivers some worthy extras. A hearty thumbs up!

 


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