Thomas in Love

A funny and original film set in a future when communications are even more refined than they are now, "Thomas in Love" is a potential cult success with a pleasantly skewed approach to sexual relationships. Despite its self-imposed restrictions (the titular hero is heard but never seen; viewers see only the people he talks to on his "visiophone"), the film nevertheless could find an appreciative audience with the right handling. Video trade should be brisk.

A funny and original film set in a future when communications are even more refined than they are now, “Thomas in Love” is a potential cult success with a pleasantly skewed approach to sexual relationships. Despite its self-imposed restrictions (the titular hero is heard but never seen; viewers see only the people he talks to on his “visiophone”), the film nevertheless could find an appreciative audience with the right handling. Video trade should be brisk.

Thomas Thomas (voiced by Benoit Verhaert) is acutely agoraphobic; for eight years, the 33-year-old hasn’t ventured outside his apartment, nor will he allow anyone in. Supplies delivered to him have to be left in the outside corridor.

His business affairs, such as they are, are run by his insurance company, Globale. The all-knowing Globale rep (Alexandre von Sivers) to whom he talks on his phone-screen also looks after his mental well-being, assigning him a psychologist (Frederic Topart).

For sex, Thomas has relied on cyber encounters which have in the past been exciting, but now, despite the best efforts of his cyber partner (“Careful — bestial phase engaged”) he is jaded.

He’s also bothered because his vacuum cleaner has broken. The ever-helpful Globale rep gets the cleaner fixed, and tells him he is eligible to receive, gratis, the services of prostitutes trained by the state to help the disabled, which Thomas is. Meanwhile his shrink signs him on for a dating service.

Thomas is understandably dubious about all this. Still, he contacts cheerful Melodie (Magali Pinglaut), via the dating service, and the sweet-natured but decidedly unhappy hooker, Eva (Aylin Yay). To his surprise, he finds himself falling in love with Eva, becoming so smitten that he even decides to try to leave his apartment to meet her.

Though in outline the film may sound gimmicky, in fact it’s a well thought out and packaged satire on a soulless world of the future.

Comments on the increasingly dominant role insurance companies play in our lives seem especially potent. Concessions to a new era are seen in the apparently prevalent fashion for facial tattoos, and in the elaborate moving picture screens seen all over the apartments with which Thomas is connected.

Though at first it’s frustrating not to see the protagonist, Verhaert is so successful at providing nuanced voicing for the character that in the end the fact that Thomas is, literally, an invisible man for the audience seems not to matter.

Pic was shot entirely on video and has been transferred to film with some presumably deliberate glitches.

Thomas in Love

Belgium - France

Production

An Entre Chien & Loup/JBA Prods. production, in association with RTBF. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Diana Elbaum. Co-producers, Jacques Bidou, Arlette Zylberberg. Directed by Pierre-Paul Renders. Screenplay, Philippe Blasband.

Crew

Camera (color), Virginie Saint Martin; editor, Ewin Ryckaert; music, Igor Sterpin; production designer, Pierre Gerbaux; costume designer, Anne Fournier; sound (Dolby digital), Ewin Ryckaert, Daniel Tursch; animation and digital effects, Sparx; assistant director, Eric Lacroix. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Cinema of the Present), Sept 3, 2000. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Thomas Thomas - Benoit Verhaert Eva - Aylin Yay Melodie - Magali Pinglaut Nathalie (the Mother) - Micheline Hardy Insurance agent - Alexandre von Sivers Psychologist - Frederic Topart Receptionist - Serge Lariviere
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