In this 2004 film, Claire Denis follows the story of an impenetrable loner. Info
Taking its name and inspiration from French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy's autobiographical account of undergoing a heart transplant, Claire Denis' L'Intrus [The Intruder] (2004) remains the filmmaker's most formally audacious and deliriously radical work to date. More a visual tone-poem than a coherent narrative, the film follows the adventures of Louis Trébor (Michel Subor), an enigmatic, brooding, and cold-hearted 68-year-old man who lives alone with his two canine companions in the snowy Jura Mountains of France.
After suffering a mild heart attack, Louis leaves his isolated woodland cabin and embarks on an international expedition to purchase an illegal organ transplant and reconnect with the illegitimate son he abandoned long ago. Traveling from a forest near the French-Swiss border to the bustling markets and shipyards of Pusan, South Korea, Louis then sails to his former home, a dilapidated shack on a remote island south of Tahiti.
L'Intrus shifts back and forth between geographical locations and moments in time, emphasizing atmosphere and vivid sensory detail over linear plot development. Employing minimal dialogue and a visual style that could be described as "hallucinatory clinical realism," to borrow a phrase from film critic Pauline Kael, Denis conveys Louis' experiences through a dizzying succession of powerful, transient images. While focusing on the fragile surfaces of Louis' body with probing camera movements and extreme close-ups of his skin, Denis reveals little of her character's psychological depths. As Louis struggles to begin a new life, his past, present, and future—real and imagined—coalesce into a haunting, elusive, dreamlike portrait of a selfish sensualist in search of physical and spiritual redemption.
Far from a faithful adaptation, Denis' L'Intrus avoids any direct references to the specificity of the source material. Rather, she grafts Nancy's broader reflections on identity, exposure, and intrusion into her own fractured, elliptical story of exile, loss, and regret, while using her lush, visceral textures to examine the porous borders between inner and outer worlds. Although the fundamental ambiguity of L'Intrus may alienate some viewers, Denis' sensuous, assured editing rhythms and breathtaking compositions demand that we surrender to the film's magnetic flow. In the director's own evocative words, "L'Intrus is like a boat lost in the ocean drifting." —Jason Fuhrman