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The Big Picture

The Big Picture

By Arpad Lukacs • March 10th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: July 22nd, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 115 minutes

Country of origin: France
Original language: French with English subtitles

Director: Eric Lartigau
Writer: Eric Lartigau, Laurent de Bartillat

Cast: Romain Duris, Marina Fois, Branka Katic, Niels Arestrup, Catherine Deneuve, Eric Ruf

I have a very open minded way of looking at what it means to be a photographer. I have come across truly inspiring works of far too many photographers who do not have their images in galleries or magazines; they take pictures because they want to. With the internet, these artists have an easy and hassle-free way to share photographs with anyone who is interested.

I relish this modern tool to search for people who have created breathtaking and thought provoking images and I often find out these people are also chefs, office workers or lawyers as well as photographers. Your identity as a photographer is defined only by your images, not by your status, title or your profession.

The Big Picture

It didn’t work out that way for Paul Exben (Romain Duris) in director Eric Lartigau’s thriller The Big Picture. Exben gave up photography altogether and is a partner in a highly successful law firm in Paris. While he seems to have everything he could wish for; a well-paid job and beautiful family, his eyes frequently linger on photographs that remind him of his unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.

He takes an interest in other people’s work whenever he can – he clearly and genuinely wants to be a photographer but he does everything except picking up a camera.

This repressed desire has an effect on other aspects of his life; he’s never able to hit the right tone with his wife (Marina Fois), he is either too submissive and pathetic or very nasty and rude when he has one too many drinks. It soon turns out that she cheats on him with a mutual friend (Eric Ruf) – a photographer – and before Exben knows, she announces that she wants a divorce.

The Big Picture

Exben’s shattered manhood makes him confront the rival male; a confrontation that ends with Exben accidentally killing the man. Standing over the dead lover’s corpse, he decides to assume his identity and travel to a beautiful part of the former Yugoslavia to live out his dream as a photographer.

It’s hard not to think of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 classic The Passenger when watching the film. The Big Picture is a similarly structured and paced film about a man who steals someone else’s life. But David Locke, played by Jack Nicholson, took an identity that was merely different from his own; his motives were to leave his life behind in exchange for whatever is available. Paul Exben takes an identity that resembles his and has the potential of fulfilling a long harboured dream.

Although memories of his two children occasionally serve as painful reminders that he left something important behind, Exben relishes his new life and submerges happily in the art of picture taking. He likes this so much that he soon begins to take risks by having his work published. He is getting closer and closer to being exposed but the ego of his new identity is unstoppable.

The Big Picture

The fact that Exben enjoys his second life and wants to protect it in spite of taking increasing risks makes The Big Picture a superb thriller. The photographer wants success and recognition but Exben is terrified of being caught at the same time. The beautiful landscapes are combined with stunning cinematography throughout that plays brilliantly with the theme of photography and images. Intense music is used with excellent timing to convey tension and Romain Duris gives a great performance as the tormented and desperate photographer.

I personally found it difficult to accept that Exben would struggle so much to be something that’s really very easy if someone has a natural inclination for it in today’s day and age. I’ve seen people making wonderful and incredible images using tools as unassuming as mobile phones. In the 21st century, there is no room for excuses; if a photographer is what you want to be, all you need is to do it.

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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