High school classmates Pierre and Damien have just murdered a street woman inside her own apartment days before their French placement examinations. After hearing of the gruesome news, Zoe, a young optician working on the same street, recalls the two boys bumping into her, dropping a black glove on the sidewalk, and she begins to formulate her own radical theory, putting two-and-two together that the teens could be the very culprits fleeing calmly from the scene. Meanwhile, Pierre and Damien continue on with their examination studies over the Easter holiday, believing their heinous crime was not personal but of chance, making the offense not a crime at all. Zoe continues her pursuit of curiosity toward the murderers by not informing the authorities of her suspicions; instead, Zoe uses the crime to become self-aware of her fragile and stagnant relationship with her long time boyfriend while the two teens perverse over the concept of committing another murder.
Leave it to the French to make a bloodless and non-violent crime drama that’s more arthouse than conventional. Based on the Leslie Kaplan 2005 novel, “Fever” is the 2014 freshman film from writer-director Raphael Neal that dives sharply from the murderous act and into the internal struggles that lead Damien, Pierre, and Zoe into a turmoil path. Pierre and Damien think they both won’t be affected by their crime and that their moral conscious will remain clean on the philosophical notion that chance doesn’t warrant being unethical, immoral, or lawfully wrong. Damien basks in this belief more than Pierre, but still succumbs to the inevitable intrinsic battle. Yet, the two boys face separate inner warfare: Pierre’s frightened he’ll be caught by Damien’s nonchalant cockiness, looking over his shoulder constantly and fretting the off chance a witness has already spilled their dastardly secret to authorities whereas Damien fears that his chance theory is being blown to smithereens due in part of his ancestral legacy where his grandfather had cooperatively slain hundreds, if not thousands, of Jews during World War II because the Nazi’s ordered him.
Neal’s envisioning, as a director and a writer, flounders with a wishy-washy, by the waste side, telling when trying to convey the character centric story. From the beginning, Pierre and Damien’s sociopathic nature weakens from time to time with an invading moral conscience, like with in Pierre, but Damien’s difference lies with him questioning his justification of murder, but Pierre and Damien’s quiescent state about their family’s issues spots the story like a dirty window unable to view through clearly, leaving a vague and murky background and present state of mind for both characters. The twosomes’ up-and-down state of minds displays no consistence in their behaviors as they’re friends one instance, squabbling and bickering the next, then back to friends shortly after. Issues with angry and abandoning fathers, lustful mothers, and, apparently, genocidal grandfathers have deeply rooted themselves into the boys’ psyche like poisonous mushrooms kept in the dark to thrive to be eaten by mistake. Neal never relays that sense of foreboding wickedness. The same goes with Zoe as a character with really no background whose starting to go through a metamorphous, reforming her position in an unexciting relationship and developing, through subtle hints, a strangling desire after learning about to incident across from her shop. Yet, her full transformation never completes itself, placing her character, and the teens, into a volatile decline of shortcomings.
Though not too familiar with the actors themselves, their performances overshadow the film’s overall divergent plots. I was very struck by Martin Loizillon’s portrayal of Damien with the cold-heartedness that completely blankets his façade and his exerting of unorthodox spontaneity that doesn’t shy away from creating an uncomfortable scene. Pierre Moure contrasts Loizillon appropriately with a shyly frigidity, secretly yearning for more blood, Pierre Simonet. The red-headed Julie-Marie Parmentier displays the same kind of coldness reflected by the Pierre and Damien, but in actress’s own style of curiosity and intrigue with a minuscule hankering for sexual fetishes or self-morbidity. Then there’s duo lingo French singer Camille playing a role of non-fictional popular song artist Alice Snow whose hit English single, “Fever,” serves not only as the title of Neal’s film, but also symbolizes the foundation of the characters’ conflicts.
Artsploitation Films courteously distributes the Strutt Films’ production of “Fever” onto an unrated DVD with a sleek widescreen presentation with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video’s clean with bright, Spring-like colors opposite the more customary, French influenced film noir that’s more common toward crime thrillers. The French 5.1 surround sound mix comes with English subtitles. While the soundtracks and the dialogue tracks are distinct and lively, there’s a slight error involving omitted subtitles, but the flaw only affects a petite portion of the dialogue, if you’re not tuned into French dialogues. “Fever” displays a mixture of psychological drama that mirrors the infamous Chicago crime of Leopold and Loeb of 1920 and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s pathologic philosophical novel “Crime and Punishment.”