An emotionally cold man leaves the safety of his Alpine home to seek a heart transplant and an estranged son. A film inspired by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s short book of the same name.
“Denis’s enigmatic eighth feature is her most challenging. It drifts and baffles. A synopsis might call it the story of Louis Trebor – an aging man, played by Denis regular Michel Subor, who is haunted by a mysterious past and seeks to buy his way out of coronary troubles, into a new life – but only at the risk of ascribing to the film a lucid simplicity that it refuses at every turn. Denis herself offers a better encapsulation, echoing Nancy’s experience of disorientation: ‘L’intrus is like a boat lost in the ocean.’ So it is. Far from a weakness, though, the errancy of this vessel is inextricable from its exhilarating force, one that hits as hard in the gut as in the head.”
“L’intrus has accumulated a reputation as being impenetrable, singled out as the most enigmatic piece from a filmmaker whose work is rarely plotted for conventional storylines or discernable resolutions. The story, such as it is, is an elliptic traversal of unbound geographies accompanying a protagonist whose past activities and present motivations are never entirely clarified. However, I would suggest that instead of assigning the film to impenetrability, we might consider it too porous, dangerously open, a rejection of those enclosures that even Denis has called on to structure her other films.”
Ben Sachs: I’ve seen The Intruder several times now, and I still can’t quite pinpoint what it’s doing. How would you summarize its tone, themes, and impact?
Lori Felker: This is like a “what’s the meaning of life?” question. The film is so open that it can mean different things depending on the viewer’s position. The lack of explanation and drift between reality and dreams paint a picture that leaves room for us to complete it. Denis suggests that these grand plots [which involve border patrol, international finance, colonialism] are ultimately controlled by human beings, who are erratic and irrational creatures. We are animals, but we are not dogs. We’re next to dogs – lots of dogs.
Lori Felker in conversation with Ben Sachs3
“When I was reading [Jean-Luc Nancy’s book], I was shooting at the time – Trouble Every Day. It’s very short, I read it overnight. It mixed this feeling of having in his chest the heart of someone he doesn’t know, and the people trespassing the borders. And he remembered in the hospital when it was transplanted, that mainly men got transplants. Women not as often, it’s very rare. But men generally always asked the surgeon: ‘Of course, I want a new heart to survive, but not a woman’s heart, please. A man, a male heart, not a female heart, please.’ And an extra demand: ‘And not from a black person.’ And he wrote that. Then I started to write the script as if I was trying to translate his book. He said: ‘Although it’s from me, it’s not my book.’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s your book. And in my vision, in a way, it’s your book. It’s about a man who is selfish enough, who wants to buy a new heart and not pay the debt.’ So, Jean-Luc Nancy was and is still very close to me. And he said: ‘You never did an adaptation of the book. You adopted the book. That’s different.’”