Thomas in Love

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 08/01/01 07:50:09

"Trippy cyber-erotica with a thoughtful edge"
3 stars (Average)

Thomas (Benoit Verhaert) doesn't leave his apartment. He's classified as disabled but his therapist thinks he should date. His only sexual contact is with a virtual assistant and the help of a cybersex suit. It works okay for him, he doesn't seem to need any other companionship. He joins a dating service and we learn more about Thomas as he tries to find a woman. The goal of his therapy is to get him outside the house. Thomas sees no reason to leave but when he finds a woman he wants to join in the outside world the people he pays to help him seem more intent on keeping him at home because that's just good business.

Set in the future, the film is an exaggeration of now bohemian lifestyles that become the commonplace. Insurance agents and doctors sport facial tattoos and cybersex has already become unfashionable.

The opening scene is a computer generated x-rated fantasy that just shies away from being pornographic. The sets and costumes are something like Brazil meets Dr.Who. The hi-tech feel of the movie is accentuated with future fantasy elements like video loops running on flat screens instead of photographs in frames.

The characters are interesting and the acting, especially the voice over of Thomas (who you never see) is done well but relationships developed instantly and I didn't buy that they could be as meaningful as everyone acted when they happened in such a protracted period of time. I wouldn't call this film a romance. It's more of a spectacle with the plot turning on a pin just to give us insightful and intimate conversations. Its a French film so maybe it makes sense to a modern Parisian. Dating services, once called marriage clubs, are very popular in France and Thomas has some fun ridiculing the idea that you could meet your perfect mate based on ten completely obtuse questions.

Thomas communicates with the world through a visiophone, a video phone and the film is seen as the screen of Thomas' visiophone. The actors had to be their own cameraperson as they talked to Thomas. Pierre-Paul Renders, the director, wanted the actors to experience what their characters were experiencing, so he devised a system where the characters were alone in their respective sets and all they saw were the other actor's faces on a monitor in their room and heard their voices through speakers. Even Renders characters were alone in their respective sets and all they saw were the other actor's faces on a monitor in their room and heard their voices through speakers. Even Renders communicated with his actors from a control room where he whispered directions to them electronically. The gaffer was the only other person present when any character was delivering their monologues.

Their tight budget forced the team to be as efficient as possible. They couldn't afford studio space in Brussels so they turned an old public school in the suburbs into their future world where they filmed everything in just 24 days. Most of the shots were done in one take. Renders planned to edit for nine weeks and ended up spending nine months with all the digital post-production and the animation of Clara, Thomas' virtual companion. Editing the film also taught Renders a sack full of new editing techniques to work inside his one-take scenes. So many that he says, he "could write a book about it." That's a book that will probably make more money than the theatre run of this film.

Renders is fascinated by the way we use the Internet to meet and connect and Thomas is representative of that electronic isolation. In the future society of this film, people still want to get laid, find love, and be happy. When it goes to video, it will be the masturbatory hit of the adolescent comic convention and sci-fi set.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.