| August 12, 2016

Reality, and how trauma influences an individual’s sense of it, is at the heart of director Alice Winocour’s latest feature Disorder. The story follows Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a French Special Forces soldier who has just returned from Afghanistan. Suffering from PTSD, Vincent tries to stay as busy as possible, picking up the odd security job to make money and stave off the stress that constantly plagues him.

For Vincent, paranoia is a permanent affliction, and with each passing day the reality of the world around him and the delusions of his damaged psyche blur, creating a battleground far more frightening than anything he experienced in the Middle East. Soon, Vincent is hired by a wealthy Lebanese businessman to not only watch over his estate, but to also protect his wife Jessie (Diane Kruger). What seems like a routine security assignment soon descends into chaos, and the fantasies Vincent attributes to the trials of combat manifest in the most horrific ways.

Film and television narratives dissecting PTSD have become quite familiar in recent times, but what Winocour has been able to accomplish is showing the often-overlooked intricacies of the illness, and how one can both cower at and crave the atrocities that have maintained an enduring hold on them.

Vincent has experienced a level of loss few can relate to, and because of this, his perception has altered, shedding its attraction to modern life’s inevitable distractions, and becoming the most pure and primal incarnation of human nature, where survival is the only objective. Schoenaerts captures this perfectly, and through his sparse dialog transcends the popular portrait of the troubled veteran, presenting instead a more accurate and thought-provoking depiction of devastation.

Winocour also analyzes notions of freedom, and perhaps most fascinating, suggests freedom for an individual can exist in chaos. For Vincent, there is comfort in destruction. The seeming tranquility and stability of daily life in a neighborhood of luxury homes and cocktail parties feels more threatening than liberating. Paradoxically, he longs to be back in the warzone that’s responsible for his troubled state of mind. An environment lacking in havoc no longer feels safe, so Vincent hankers for the moments of mayhem, those bursts of tension and violence that now cater to a consciousness whose awareness depends on them.

Perception, as with memory, is highly malleable, and Winocour and director of photography Georges Lechaptois skillfully peel back the sturdy and familiar reality we think we know, and suggest instead that there are no fixed elements of existence, and that for better or worse, each situation and individual can appear in any number of permutations. Is somebody following Vincent and Jennie? Does Vincent hear a conversation about arms dealing, or are these distorted and shifting points of view the result of a damaged mind? The uncertainty and paranoia of each action heightens the excitement and mystery of the piece, and more than merely the component of a conventional thriller, this strategy serves to show that one reality is no less authentic than the next, and to best understand the phenomenon of life, we must be willing to at least look at and consider the more abstract and confusing perceptions permeating our environments.

With Disorder, Winocour has created much more than a commentary on the traumas of war, showing that a sense of safety can strangely thrive in the most harrowing circumstances.

Disorder is now playing in New York and Los Angeles.

About the Author:

Matthew Vasiliauskas is a graduate of Columbia University. His work has appeared in publications such as Conjunctions, Berlin’s Sand Literary Journal, Chicago Literati and The Pennsylvania Review. Matthew currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
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