DVD Review: Extreme gore of ‘7 Days’ not necessarily senselessDuluth-based film critic Alex Skomars takes a look at Daniel Grou’s somewhat-meaningful torturefest "7 Days."
By: Alex Skomars, Budgeteer News
Now here’s a revenge tale that’s torture to watch — but not in a bad way. Quebec filmmaker Daniel Grou’s recent Sundance Film Festival entry “7 Days” (originally “Les 7 Jours du Talion”) is shocking, to say the least.
The plot kicks off with lead character Dr. Bruno Hamel’s discovery of the molested body of his 8-year-old daughter in a field, and proceeds to cover the killer’s subsequent capture and torture by Hamel. Yet, for all the film’s bloodshed, those of you who can see past the violence will undoubtedly realize that there is a point to it all: “7 Days” is an honest attempt to depict one man’s transformation as tragedy pushes him over the edge and changes him into a monster.
Despite the graphic, unrepentant nature of the film, Grou is careful not to make any claims as to what is “right” and “wrong” within the picture. Rather, he presents the tale as an unbiased third party, leaving judgment of the characters up to you, the viewer.
The story documents the Hamels’ grief from start to climax. After the death of their daughter, Hamel’s wife becomes reclusive, treating him with a mixture of regret and blame. Guilt-stricken and unable to console her, Hamel decides to take matters into his own hands. Motivated by impalpable fury, he concocts a cold, calculated plot to extract revenge from his daughter’s killer over seven days of bloody retribution in an empty cottage turned torture chamber.
It isn’t long before his plan is set in motion and Hamel makes off with his kidnapped victim to the secluded hideaway. With revenge as his only goal, Hamel informs the police that the plan will culminate with the killer’s execution on what would have been his daughter’s ninth birthday.
As you might expect, most of the torture scenes are difficult to watch and certainly not for the squeamish. (Repeat: The scenes in this film are shocking and are not for the squeamish.) But, more importantly, they are also highly effective in their portrayal of the terrible nature of revenge. They show us exactly what a normal person is capable of under the right circumstances.
Despite his victim’s agonizing pleas for mercy, Dr. Hamel is silent virtually the entire time at the cottage. He inflicts his first act of vengeance with steady hands, delivering a bone-shattering blow to the killer’s knee with a sledgehammer. As hours shift into days, Hamel betrays terse moments of doubt before delving to new depths of inhumanity in search of relief from the torment of his loss. However, it soon becomes apparent that Hamel finds no pleasure in these acts — but he feels obligated to continue. As much as it pains and sickens him, it is his fatherly duty to carry on.
Grou imbibes the film with a sense of candidness through the lack of a musical score, in addition to smooth, cool-headed camera movements that are virtually devoid of visual trickery. That’s not to say that the cinematography is boring, but rather somewhat understated and rather elegant.
We catch glimpses of powerful emotional scenes beautifully framed through windows or open doorways, granting us a voyeuristic glimpse into the characters’ lives and emotional suffering from the comfort of our seats. Conversely, the camera thrusts us mercilessly into the brutal center of the torture scenes, leaving us with nowhere to hide and no way to avoid the carnage unfolding therein. Virtually every act of violence committed by Hamel is presented to the audience without apology. A nauseating chorus of hammer blows, heavy chains and cleaving knives join the tormented man’s cries as the only sounds accompanying the gristly images on screen, which will almost certainly prompt viewers to squirm in their seats or turn away outright.
Much of the film is explicit to the point of perversion; nevertheless, its ultimate goal is not to gross you out but to confront you with several ethical questions: Do Hamel’s actions make him a hero or a monster? Does he seek justice for a heinous crime or merely selfish retribution? Finally, will torturing and killing the man actually make anything better for anyone?
Grou does a fine job of addressing these questions through various characters throughout the piece, specifically a police detective who discusses the recent murder of his own wife with Hamel.
We can all sympathize with Dr. Hamel’s plight. We understand the need to right a wrong, to payback someone who has slighted us. In order to fully explore the powerful need for revenge, Grou presents us with both the tragic circumstances that trigger the emotion as well as the horrific results. In this way, we experience the entire gambit of emotions and responses, ranging from horror and guilt to rage, vengeance and, perhaps, even regret. The film itself never takes a firm stance on the morality of the events, or even on revenge itself. The awful punishment enacted upon the killer by Hamel stands on its own for what it is, leaving you to answer one final question of yourself: What would you do?
Duluth-based film critic Alex Skomars can be reached by clicking on his byline above.