Moody lightning, false endings, a Pino Donaggio score–Passion is De Palma’s return to his overcooked Hitchcock homages and a gleeful one. More, De Palma’s aware of its place in his filmography–the film opens with a playful piece of music from Donaggio, preparing the audience for a pitch black comedy. And, for a long while–even through some unexpected developments–De Palma lets that impression continue.
Most of the film is Rachel McAdams behaving badly. She alternately grooms and torments one of her subordinates–Noomi Rapace–which soon sets the two women against each other. Throw in a shared love interest (Paul Anderson) and Rapace’s admiring assistant (Karoline Herfurth) and De Palma has his lurid setup.
There’s also the setting–Passion takes place in Germany, apparently. It’s unclear and just European for a while, but then a lot of the cast starts speaking German, just not the leads. And then all of a sudden Rapace starts speaking it and the setting is just another thing De Palma didn’t make clear for the audience.
The last third of the film is De Palma daring the audience to guess how he’s messing with them. Even when he makes things completely clear, he’s only doing it to further twist things.
Passion has good acting from Rapace and McAdams and De Palma is having a great time. His only ambition–besides giving his actors good scenes–is toying with the audience. Great editing from François Gédigier.
It’s far better than it should be.
Directed by Brian De Palma; screenplay by De Palma and Natalie Carter, based on a film written by Carter and Alain Corneau; director of photography, José Luis Alcaine; edited by François Gédigier; music by Pino Donaggio; production designer, Cornelia Ott; produced by Saïd Ben Saïd; released by ARP Sélection.
Starring Rachel McAdams (Christine Stanford), Noomi Rapace (Isabelle James), Karoline Herfurth (Dani), Paul Anderson (Dirk Harriman), Rainer Bock (Inspector Bach), Benjamin Sadler (Prosecutor), Michael Rotschopf (Isabelle’s Lawyer), Max Urlacher (Jack) and Dominic Raacke (J.J. Koch).