Sex! Murder! Pornography! I bet that got your attention, right? I’ve always loved watching films that are willing to engulf you and hurl you into their world from the jump. Right from the opening scene, you feel like you’re swimming in its dark depths. Knife+Heart throws you into a world of sex and violence without holding your hand. With an incredible cast, a queer utopia we hope to strive for, and the most bonkers murder weapon ever seen on screen, Knife+Heart creates a beautiful and sinister atmosphere bathed in blood and boys.
Knife+Heart tells the story of gay porn producer Anna (Vanessa Paradis). Her work is on the uptick, but her personal life seems to be falling apart at the seams and to make matters worse, someone is murdering her leading men. When one of her actors is mysterious killed, it sets off an unstoppable chain of events that threatens the lives of everyone around her. This puts Anna’s productions in a tailspin and sends her spiraling downward in a grim, uncontrollable nosedive.
There’s so much to be said about Knife+Heart, but there’s so little time to say it. The film, in a nutshell, is a visually stunning murder mystery enhanced by director Yann Gonzalez’s impressive experimental touch. Gonzalez crafts Knife+Heart in a non-linear Giallo-esque fashion. Each scene continuously takes you by surprise, holding nothing back. At moments you’ll be confused. In others, you’ll think you have it all figured out. You don’t. You feel as if you never will, but that’s a part of the beauty of the film!
Gonzalaz structured the film around the filmmaking process itself. At moments, it feels as if you’re watching the narrative of both Anna’s production and life unfolding simultaneously. Key moments lie in the editing process and spliced together to help the viewer understand what they’re seeing while still retaining a disjointed and dream-like quality. When you piece the story together, these touches provide an overwhelming stunning narrative.
Yann Gonzalez’s direction & Cristiano Mangione’s script captures the collaborative creativity of production & editing, making Knife+Heart wild and unpredictable. When Knife+Heart gets going, you’re into the rich, weird, and over-stimulating storytelling it has to offer. One thing that should be mentioned, though, is how incredibly emotional the film is. Gonzalez and Mangione dive deep in a way that’s rarely seen but captures you before making your heartbreak.
Every character feels SO MUCH in the film, ad you might start to feel that bubbling in your chest as well. As the boys are murdered, everyone in the crew experiences pain, grief, and confusion. When Anna expresses her feelings for her editor Loïs, she displays crippling sadness and heartbreak. When the killer murders, he too releases an overwhelming geyser of agony and anger. Every subplot of Knife+Heart puts you on an emotional roller coaster with its characters. Everyone lays their feelings out on the line, and it makes for a fantastic and moving story.
Standout performances aside, I absolutely have to mention the unbelievably creepy sound design. It maximizes the killer’s “noises,” which sound like a high-pitched reverberance that will have you crawling out of your skin. The synth dream-pop soundtrack by M83 is such a haunting and ever-lingering presence that will leave you humming softly and swaying your arms out of the theater. (If you do watch on VOD, I suggest using headphones for the whole experience) And the costume designs are such a dream! From Anna and Loïs‘s wardrobe to the Leather-faced masked killer, you will want a piece of clothing from this film in your closet. They perfectly capture the late 70s and each character’s respective personality.
Lastly, you couldn’t pull this type of movie off without a cast to provide the heart that it needs. Vanessa Paradis electrifies the screen. Her character, Anna, is broken in such a profound way, which allows her to come across as a demanding but emotional presence. She desires and demands your attention from start to finish, and you give it to her because she’s that magnetic. You move into these different patterns with Anna, but you can see where she’s coming from, even if she might be wrong at the end of the day.
The rest of the ensemble cast is nothing short of amazing. Personally, Kate Moran as Loïs is one of my favorite characters in this entire movie. She is a significant presence on the screen that she doesn’t have to say a word to feels like a haunting piece of the puzzle — or maybe she’s just a quiet observer hiding behind the scenes. That said, Nicolas Maury’s Archibald is also hiding behind the scenes, and you can’t tear your eyes from him. Maury is “extra” in all the right places that makes him so enjoyable to watch. He’s a breath of fresh air when things get very, very serious.
It’s tough to distinguish who the killer is in this film, but the man behind the mask, my dude, KILLED IT (pun intended). If there’s one person who carried the most emotion, it was him. He crossed between anger and pain, heartbreak and suffering so naturally that it breaks your heart in two. Even when people were being murdered, I was slightly rooting for him. I know I shouldn’t have, but it was heartbreaking to the very end.
Knife+Heart should be seen. Period. If you’re someone who loves queer cinema, experimental storytelling, or you consider yourself a Giallo enthusiast, you have to watch this film. Yes, it is unusual but filled with talent beyond expectation, and a clever & compelling story guaranteed will take your breath away.