5 x 2 [cinq fois deux]

| July 17, 2005

In a large chateau illuminated by a blanket of stars from the night sky, a champagne cork pops. With the release of the cork comes an explosion of tapping feet, singing voices and uplifting, delirious music.
A wedding party has commenced, and at the center of the glorious chaos stands the happy couple Marion and Gilles. In a more hypnotic and ballet-like manner, the newlyweds caress and toss each other about the dance floor. Savoring the excitement of the recently formed courtship.
The dancing and celebrating continues late into the night, but Marion and Gilles feel a celebration in their bedroom would be more appropriate. Gilles though falls asleep prematurely, leaving Marion to fend for herself the rest of the evening.
Desiring a more secluded and natural setting, Marion makes her way to a small wooded area, where she carefully sits on a log near the edge of a lake. The water glistens brightly from the stars, and Marion takes a deep breath as she gazes out over the water.
Suddenly though, there is a rustling of bushes. Marion grips tightly onto the log, not knowing what to expect next. The leaves and branches part, revealing the bearded face of a young man. Having expected the worst, Marion breathes a sigh of relief, and greets the man in French. The man though does not speak a word of French, and identifies himself as American. Marion smiles at the confusion, and responds to the young man in English. The man quickly offers Marion a cigarette, and asks if he may share her log. Marion kindly agrees, and the two sit side-by-side looking out over the woods and water.
The two share tidbits of conversation under the moon’s glow, while slowly exhaling the smoke from their cigarettes. It isn’t long though before Marion finishes her cigarette, and stands up to leave the scene. As she does this, the young man grabs her hand unexpectedly. He begs her not to go, and desperately wants her to wait just a while longer. Marion has no intentions of doing so, and struggles to free herself from the man’s grip. The man quickly brings Marion towards him, and begins caressing her body and kissing her neck.
Initially, Marion despises these extreme gestures from the man, and forcefully tries to push him away. The man though does not relinquish his grip, and continues to kiss Marion passionately all over her body. Within moments however, Marion gives into the advances, and proceeds to return the kisses the man had begun. The two hold tightly onto each other, and pummel one another with a barrage of sexually satisfying actions. And it is under this sky of shining stars that a most dangerous and harmful display of affection has occurred.
The viability of marriage and its importance in societal interactions are central themes in Francois Ozon’s latest film “5 X 2.” Tracing the rigorous and often unbearable lifeline of a couple’s relationship, Ozon raises questions to whether or not matrimony is a valuable, natural occurrence, or whether it is simply a tired, old religious misconception. With no real home in the understandings of modern society.
The film follows the marital life of Marion, played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Gilles, played by Stephane Freiss. Presented in a nonlinear fashion, the story opens with the untimely divorce proceedings the couple are currently engaged in. As Marion and Gilles are read the specific legal terms to finalize the separation, the extreme look of disillusionment and sadness cannot be missed. Ozon’s use of low-key lighting, and sparse costume design, properly reflect the strong emotions surfacing within the scene. Through the actions and facial characteristics of the actors, the sense of weariness and pain are quickly made apparent as well. It is through these harsh and uncompromising mise-en-scene components that Ozon can prepare the audience for the next scene. One that takes the battered desires of the characters, and transforms them into haunting, physical displays of unsatisfied affection.
With the divorce finalized, Marion and Gilles make their way to a hotel room. In a last attempt to try and capture the flame that ignited their relationship so many years ago, the couple decides to make love to one another. A final farewell, to a recently discarded courtship.
The walls of the room are blue in color, and as before, the illumination remains low. Marion and Gilles lay side-by-side on the bed naked, making very little movement and sound. As the two begin to kiss one another gently, Marion realizes that this is a mistake, and tries to escape from the situation at hand. But Gilles will not allow it. He forces himself upon Marion, and proceeds to rape her. Marion struggles, and tears stream down her face. Like a deer caught in the headlights, Marion finally remains still. Paralyzed by fright, and accepting of the inevitable.
In Ozon’s attempt at presenting forth the longings and desires of a damaged relationship, he successfully displays the deteriorating emotions of the two characters within the scene.
The hotel room itself acts as the appropriate physical illustration of the couple’s trampled love for one another. The room exists most apparently as a sort of shell. A relationship that once housed life and promise, now has become withered and barren. Ozon molds this everyday setting into something more significant. The audience watches the two characters tip toe around the room, and finally lie next to one another coldly on the bed. It wasn’t too long ago that the couple needed to tip toe around at all. And quite excitedly, would jump at the opportunity to share a bed together.
And then of course comes the rape. Marriage itself is a sacrament meant to endure for a lifetime. So when that bond is broken, the emotions and desires that one possesses, can soon manifest themselves into an animalistic display. Gilles did not want to lose Marion, but it was obvious that the relationship no longer existed. Gilles felt as if he needed this. He needed to feel the warmth of his partner’s body one last time. Unfortunately, whether she was going to cooperate or not, Gilles was going to make sure he achieved this feat.
As the story progresses, the audience is introduced to the various episodes of the couple’s life. From the birth of their child, to their first encounter alongside the Mediterranean, every important factor defining the couple’s life is presented. But perhaps one of the more important instances occurs when Marion and Gilles throw a dinner party for Gilles’ gay brother and his current boyfriend.
Resting calmly in a sea of music and cigarette smoke, the members of the dinner party laugh and throw bits of conversation about the room. The party continues late into the evening, and soon, the subject of marriage comes across the table.
Gilles’ brother and boyfriend both agree that marriage is an unnatural, meaningless act. Why should a couple struggle so hard to fight temptation? Human beings were created to breed and remain with a variety of different partners. With so much riding on the line, the thought of remaining with one sole partner for a lifetime seems completely out of the question. Both emotionally and physically.
Though their points are convincing, Gilles simply doesn’t buy into the notion. In fact, he looks down on his brother’s current choice of living. Promoting infidelity and casual sex doesn’t quite seem like the cement to hold the blocks of a relationship together. Marion on the other hand, isn’t quite as quick to tear down the idea. Marion sympathizes with the logic, and even admits to Gilles that, “Non-traditional relationships aren’t doomed to failure. As long as they trust each other.”
With “5 X 2, ” Francois Ozon has crafted an examination of the gradual disintegration of a couple’s relationship. By starting with the shattered break up and moving towards the initial attraction, Ozon is able to reveal the vital factors contributing to the downfall of the marriage.
By examining the vital episodes of the couple’s life, one quickly gathers that the relationship may have been destined for failure. The major points in the couple’s relationship revolve around the act of infidelity. These instances of course reinforce the idea of marriage as a harmful, unnatural display of affection. Gilles and Marion’s time together becomes practically a pop-up book of misfortune and grievance. Not uplifting in the least.
But not all is lost. ‘There are many moments within the couples story that reflect the joy and education of sharing a life together. Such as looking into a child’s eyes for the first time, and forgetting that anything else exists. Knowing quite well that this lovely being has been crafted from the ultimate love of two individuals. A love that was planted with a kiss, and grew to new heights of beauty.
Many questions arise from “5 X 2.” Ozon cleverly puts forth a rubrics cube of ideas and theories in need of solving. The components and pieces are certainly there. The question of how to put them back together though, is rightfully left up to the audience.

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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