Until now, John Guillermin’s coming-of-age story Rapture has perhaps been side-lined amidst his bigger budget productions. Films like The Towering Inferno and King Kong prove Guillerman’s mastery over the bigger picture, whilst Rapture is an altogether different kind of enthralling adventure, and with its DVD release, you can now see his startlingly beautiful vision of young love on the Normandy coast.
Agnes is a young girl, isolated and immature, living with her dominant father (Melvyn Douglas) in the idyllic French countryside. With the arrival of an escaped fugitive (Dean Stockwell) Agnes’ quiet country life is turned upside down. It’s a power play at its heart, with Stockwell’s James Dean lookalike toiling subtly with Douglas’ oppressive patriarch for Agnes, both actors deserve heaps of merit for beautifully understated performances. But its also not really about that, it’s more centred on the journey of a young woman through a male-centric world at the most emotionally demanding part of her life.
Guillermin grasps the essence of this in his deft use of glorious black and white image. The shack on the cliff top where Agnes finds a doll, the doll’s shattered form on the rocks below, Agnes’ frantic breakdown in the streets of Paris; the camera glides effortlessly through this painting of a film, twisting and slanting whenever emotions are high. There are some genuinely breath-taking sequences here, but you have to view it for yourself to appreciate them. As for Georges Delerue’s sumptuous and striking score, it’s a perfect companion to the masterful high-contrast images on screen, at once foreboding and romantic.
Surprisingly crammed with A-grade technical skill and breath-taking scenery, Rapture is by nature, a touching film bound to whisk you back to a golden era of filmmaking. Charm and horror are to be found abundantly in this remarkable dark fairy tale of a film.
Stars: Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Gozzi, Dean Stockwell, Peter Sallis