Every country has its morbidly interesting murder case and for France, it’s the case of Alain Lamare, who terrorized the small French town of Oise with his random attacks on young women. This bizarre case is the basis for Cédric Anger’s new thriller, Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart.
Guillaume Canet (a renowned actor and director both in his native country of France, as well as in North America) stars as Franck Neuhart, a straight-laced gendarme who, along with is colleagues, ends up investigating the case of a serial killer who targets women. Unbeknownst to everyone in Franck’s life, it is he himself who is the killer who has become infamous in the small French town, though no one would ever have suspected him.
Franck begins by running women down with his car before graduating to picking up single female hitchhikers and shooting them on barren country roads. He is meticulous in his carnage, except that it’s suggested that he does not want to kill since he is often unable to look at his victims when he shoots them and, after each kill, he returns home to punish himself for his crimes. Yet he doesn’t stop and he hints in his letters to the police that he will continue on his horrible ways so long as there is badness in the world.
The most interesting thing to note in the film is that Franck claims his actions are because he sees the world as a being a mess of unlawful and impure people, but he only ever targets the women. This could be explained by Franck’s own issues of feeling emasculated and believing that masculinity is the better way to be. It seems that Franck has very old-fashioned ideas about how a man and a woman should be and in the late ‘70s, when this film takes place, the Western world was constantly challenging gender roles, something that makes Franck visibly uncomfortable.
The only consistent woman in the movie is Franck’s laundress, Sophie, who is in love with him. She’s shy, reserved and sensitive, though braver than she seems since she does eventually sleep with Franck after their first date. While Franck shows developing feelings for the quiet, feminine Sophie, those feelings seem to vanish after he sleeps with her. He turns vicious and insults her for wearing too much makeup or perfume and goes out of his way to hurt her feelings. It could be argued that he believes that this is how a “real man” should act in that situation, but I think it’s deeper than that. I think that Franck has an unattainable idea of how the world should be–of how women should be–and after sleeping with him, Sophie proves herself to be another so-called impure, modern woman who disgusts him.
The good news is that Franck, like Alain Lamare, does eventually get caught. The bad news is that Alain Lamare was found irresponsible for his crimes and is spending the rest of his life in a psychiatric facility in France. We’ll never know what exactly possessed Alain or Franck to do what they did, but it’s interesting to note that both only targeted women and were found insane rather than guilty. It may be the cynic in me, but I wonder if they’d have received the same sentence had they randomly targeted people of all genders instead.
Sarah is covering the Cinéfranco International Film Festival, which runs from April 10 to 19 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. See more coverage here.