a film by Jordan Scott

As far as good old-fashioned boarding school wouldbe bodice-rippers with obvious lesbian overtones and eventual Lord of the Flies allusions go, Jordan Scott's moody thriller Cracks is rather top notch. Set in a fictional, and appropriately gothic boarding school in the remotest of remote spots of Ireland (the only way to the school is across the water via ferry), this lurid tale of obsession and seduction plays out in a crescendo-like manner, building in tension with each breath, splash and nuanced wink until it finally explodes in what may very be a predictable (and perhaps somewhat choreographed throughout) but nonetheless powerfully evocative finale.

Taking a cue from the cult lesbian film Maedchen in Uniform and turning it on its proverbial head, Scott, daughter of Ridley and a former resident of an elite English boarding school herself (though the storyline here, taken from a novel by Sheila Kohler, probably did not take place in her school), fashions her film around a group of teenage girls who act as the queens of the school, a new Spanish girl who (of course) becomes the brunt of these girl's evil tricks, and the teacher who tries to hold them all together while simultaneously trying to rip them apart depending on just which one she is obsessed with at any given moment. All the while, temptation, seduction and betrayal run rampant throughout these girls insular day-to-day world, and eventually the cracks begin to appear in this mock facade.

French-born Bond girl provocatress Eva Green, whose stellar 2003 debut in Bertolucci's The Dreamers still riles up deep, dark (and perhaps a bit dirty) memories for this critic, plays Miss G., the girls teacher and confidant who tosses Di, her favourite student (played with gritty determination by the firecracker Juno Temple - between this and Kaboom earlier this year, the young Temple is one to watch as they say) to the wayside when the alluring Fiamma (played by the hot Latin commodity Maria Valverde) shows up at the school. It is in this power play, instigated behind the scenes by the obsessive and rather insane Miss G. (not unlike a twisted, uncorked version of Fraulein von Bernburg from the aforementioned Maedchen in Uniform), in which the film builds upon to create its not-so-subtle intensity. It is also in this power play that these three quite formidable actresses bare their teeth and claws and let fly what may.

Perhaps the film does end on a rather obvious, though not wholly implausible note (c'mon, like we didn't see this foreshadowed over and over again) but the tension building up to this fateful moment and the performances of Green, Temple and Valverde (Imogen Poots as Di's smiling lacky and Sinead Cusack as the stern headmistress are also along for the ride) as well as Scotts' (inherited?) directorial style (think Alien with confused and conniving schoolgirls, he said tongue-in-cheek, but only partially so) make Cracks, even with its glaring flaws, not only sensationalist (and I mean that in the most complimentary way) but quite sensational as well. [07/10/11]