FrightFest presents Incredible but True.
Quentin Dupieux’s latest film, Incredible But True (Incroyable mais vrai), is a fascinating concept that promises an absurd sci-fi mixed with bittersweet comedy. Dupieux is probably best known for his experimental and nonsensical horror film Rubber (2010), in which a car tire with psychic powers (yes, you read that right) named Robert goes on a murderous rampage. While Incredible But True follows the footsteps of Rubber in its absurdity, the result is a highly contemporary story influenced by the Covid pandemic. Yet, regrettably, it does not have much more to offer than its core concept. With a less than 80-minute runtime and an irrelevant and unfunny B-plot, the film feels like it could have been a delightful short instead.
We are introduced to our main characters, Alain (Alain Chabat) and Marie (Léa Drucker), as they are shown around a house by a real estate agent, Franck (Stéphane Pezerat). What starts as a normal process soon ends up in the realms of science fiction as Franck shows them a hatch in the basement, promising it will change their lives. Following the estate agent down the ladder, all three emerge somewhere on the upper levels of the same house. Franck explains that whoever goes down the hatch will be sent twelve hours ahead in time while simultaneously coming out three days younger than when they went in.
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The opening scene immediately sets the tone for this oddly specific premise. We follow Alain and Marie through a confusing series of events as they are concurrently shown the new house while also moving in and living in it. The film, however, does not seem to care to explore the plot’s possibilities from a science fiction point-of-view and instead solely focuses on the psychological effects the hatch has on people. Marie, in particular, quickly grows obsessed with the idea of becoming younger.
On a lighter note, we have Alain’s womaniser boss Gérard (Benoît Magimel), who has absurd news to announce during a dinner party. He has acquired a robotically enhanced penis, which preoccupies him at the expense of his relationships. Clearly, the idea was to offer a male-orientated counterpart to Marie’s obsession with looks and youth, but it does not quite succeed in conveying a clear-cut message. Instead, it feels like a low, even sexist, commentary on stereotypically feminine and masculine attributes.
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Arguably, the film is at its most enjoyable in portraying the situations these two surreal plot devices lead to. Being familiar with stories holding similar concepts, one would expect dramatic overtones and exaggerated side plotlines in which the media covers “the case of the time travelling hatch” or viral broadcasts on the world’s first fully robotic penis. Instead, following a short, initial shock from both parties upon having learnt of each other’s “newly acquired tools”, the reaction is genuine uninterest and apathy. Once we think about it, this is probably the most accurate human depiction of what we all would do in a similarly surreal situation. The point, of course, stands in a broader context and shows how people tend to be obsessed with things that matter only to them, paying no attention to others.
The film also feels influenced by the pandemic. Here the limited, secluded locations and small cast imply the film may have been made during the Covid restrictions, with a premise that plays as an allegory for lockdown. Several montages showing the daily lives of Alain and Marie feel eerily familiar as they find themselves in a repetitive circle where every day feels the same.
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However, the film never moves past its intriguing setup. For example, Dupieux does not delve into time travel on a scientific level or try to make sense of the concept – clearly because it would eventually lead to several logical contradictions and plot holes. Equally, despite the unique tone, it is Gérard’s side story that ruins the end result. Not only does it feel out of place, but the parallels with Marie’s story feel unnecessarily forced.
Incredible But True is a distinctively original film with a lot going for it but like so many similar movies, it sadly never lives up to the expectations initially set. Dupieux’s film is beautifully put together, especially in the various montages offered. While Its setup and tone undoubtedly fit the tried and tested path of absurd and unique lowkey science-fiction, it never quite reaches for the stars or offers anything truly memorable.
Incredible But True is a distinctively original film with a lot going for it but like so many similar movies, it sadly never lives up to the expectations initially set.