Writer: Ursula Meier, Antoine Jaccoud
Cast: Fanny Ardant, Kacey Mottet-Klein, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 70mins
What’s the story: A high school student sends his teacher a diary confessing to the murder of his parents.
What’s the verdict: Commissioned for Swiss TV but equally suited to the big screen, Ursula Meier’s based on true events drama recalls the intelligence, impact and humanity of Kieslowski’s Dekalog or Alan Clarke’s Made in Britain.
Mottet-Klein is sensational as Benjamin, a student who uses a writing assignment to confess why he chose to murder his parents. Equally impressive is French icon Ardant as Benjamin’s teacher, Madame Fontanel. Seeing her as his confidant, he sends her the diary, to arrive after he has committed the crime.
Klein’s astonishing portrayal of a mind in turmoil should bring him wider recognition. Ardant’s depiction of confused grief and self-doubt is perfect accompaniment.
Complex questions of responsibility and culpability are woven throughout the film, as Fontanel’s teaching practices are scrutinised as much as the crime scene and Benjamin’s written confession.
Meier and co-writer Jaccoud ensure the monstrousness of the crime is never lost, while deftly shifting sympathies between the two leads. Not always comfortable, it is nonetheless exhilarating filmmaking.
The flashback structure, triggered by Benjamin’s memories or excerpts from his diary, piece the story together after the film opens with the double murder.
Largely shot with cool detachment, Shock Waves’ visuals provide a documentary-like realism. A recreation of the crime for the investigating judge (Ecoffey) is cramped, awkward and authentic feeling. A prison visit by Benjamin’s classmates equally so.
Special mention to the expressionistic costume design. Fontanel is introduced unwittingly garbed in a blood red coat while Benjamin is killing his parents. Benjamin is mainly dressed in shades of grey.
Economically told over 70 minutes, this is nonetheless a real achievement.