The Crimson Rivers (Les rivières pourpres)

04/03/2017 16:58

Film: The Crimson Rivers (Les rivières pourpres)

Year: 2000

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Writer: Jean-Christophe Grangé and Mathieu Kassovitz

Starring: Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel and Nadia Farès



This film begins with a man driving a long distance. He comes to a wooden area where he meets with a police officer. The man who traveled is played by Jean Reno. The man he meets with is played by Karim Belkhadra. At first he wonders who let Reno in, but then learns that he is a inspector from Paris that is coming to help with the crime committed. A man has been murdered. Reno is curious as to why he was needed, but understands when the body is hanging from a nearby rock face, pretty high up.

The body is taken to the pathologist, played by François Levantal. The body was forced into the fetal position and his eyes have been removed. They are filled with water that is leaking out. Reno notices this. The hands have also been cut off. Reno notices these are both things that are used to identify people with.

The dead man works at a nearby college. This is an elite school where they are training the next great minds. The problem though is that the students graduate and then end up becoming professors. There is also a lot of marrying amongst the teachers as well. The murdered man is a professor here as well as runs the library. This school also runs as its own town where the dean is like the mayor. The college also has a hospital attached to it and the nearby town gets free health care because of it.

Since the victim did not have his eyes, Reno goes to meet with a doctor played by Jean-Pierre Cassel. He only seems to work with people who have degenerate conditions with their eyes that are passed down through the generations.

We then shift to another cop who is local, played Vincent Cassel. He is called to investigate a disturbance at the cemetery. The grave of a Judith Herault has been bothered. There is also a swastika painted on the side of it. Cassel starts to look into her and realizes that she died when she was a girl. The official report is she was hit by a truck. Cassel goes to her former school to investigate a break-in and realizes that Judith went to this school as well. Her school record and class photo are missing.

Reno goes to meet with the person that found the body; she is played by Nadia Farès. She stated that she climbed up and down the face a couple times before finding the body. Reno asks her more questions and realizes that she doesn’t care for the school or the people much. He strikes a nerve and she leaves. He also goes to visit the dean, who is played by Didier Flamand.

Cassel seeks out the mother of the dead girl. He learns that she had become a nun after what happened to her. He is allowed to see her and she is played by Dominique Sanda. She tells him that her daughter was killed by demons and that she has come here to get away from them. Cassel believes there is more to the story. He seeks out a man who tells him more about the case and learns that the only thing the mother had after the girl was hit was a finger.

Reno requests that Farès take him up on the mountain and she agrees. We learn that she is a glaciologist and she prevents avalanches from hitting the valley. They go down the glacier and take samples, because the first body seemed to have acid rain in its eyes and that is something that hasn’t happened in the area for some time. Reno goes all the way down and finds a tunnel in the glacier that is made by water. Farès follows him and they find a body trapped in the ice.

Cassel follows the lead of the swastika to a group of skinheads. They are not very forthcoming to share information with Cassel as they do not talk to police. He ends up fighting two of them before they reveal that they didn’t do it, but they do give that the person who did it drives a white Lada. Cassel calls this in and learns there is one that belongs to a man in a certain town.

The identity of the body is the same person Cassel is looking for. He also works at the college. Reno and Cassel bump into each outside of the dead man’s house. They look around his place and Cassel finds the picture that was stolen from the school. Reno allows Cassel to come to the autopsy. This man is also missing his hands and eyes.

Who is killing these people at the school and why? How does the dead girl from the past fit into this? The college is also hiding a secret that ties all of this together as well.

I want to lead off stating that I didn’t know much about this film coming in. My sister saw and recommended it. I was intrigued because I like Reno and Cassel, as they are both solid actors. I have also seen Farès in a couple of things as well. All three of these did great, especially Farès. She has a tough role to play at the climax and the reveal. I like the concept of what is going on with the college and why the murders are happening. Being from the United States, I’m not sure how Nazis are viewed today, but this film makes it seem like they use the legacy of them which I found interesting. The story was interesting and I love the two police officers investigating two seemingly unrelated crimes that end up being part of the same thing.

My biggest issue with the film is that I really wanted it to delve more into the Crimson Rivers aspect of the story. This is supposed to be something about making people bigger, faster, stronger and creating the master race like the Nazis were trying to do. They touch on it, but this isn’t really something that they go into much. I find it interesting myself and wanted more there, but it just explains what this college is secretly doing. I also don’t feel the characters are given much back-story. As someone who gets sucked into the story, I want that to connect with them more, but I just didn’t get it. There is also a scene where Cassel finds the skinheads and it turns into martial arts. I wasn’t a fan, because it felt out of place.

I am adding this film to the horror film research due to the nature of the murders. They are mutilated so not only killing them, but doing this to the body is scary. On top of this, there is a conspiracy as well that is also creepy in what is going on. These are both horror film elements so I am adding this film to the research.

With that said though, I would recommend giving this film a viewing. The acting is good, the story and concept are as well. The murders are interesting and this film is definitely a ‘who did it’, which is fun to try to guess. Now I guessed who the killer was midway through, which I didn’t like, but there was a twist I didn’t see coming and that helped me not grade the film down because of. The film could have used more back-story, but that is something for me personally I think and not necessarily the masses. This is a foreign film as I had to watch it with subtitles on, so keep that in mind before viewing as well. I would recommend it though if this is not an issue.


My Rating: 7 out of 10